Exactly three years to the day after the last time I attended a major league exhibition game against one of their minor league affiliates, I was back out at the ballpark on Friday (along with my grandpa) for the first time in nearly seven months. This time, however, it wasn’t the home of the Mudcats or Bulls — the ballparks I normally attend — but rather the home of the Grasshoppers. With the Miami Marlins in town, I made the long trek out to the stadium with the sole purpose of grabbing some autographs from the numerous good players their roster possesses.
With that in mind, my grandpa and I arrived to the ballpark an hour before the gates opened, which allowed me to be one of the first people inside when people were first allowed in at 1:00 on the dot. But despite being through the gates first, due to the long walk to the tunnel where the Marlins would be coming in and out of, there were numerous people already surrounding the area. And thus, I had settle with a spot behind a couple of people — a spot I had to squeeze my way into.
The Marlins were already on the field taking batting practice when I first arrived . . . :
. . . so I just stood there with everyone else and waited for the Marlins to return back through the tunnel and into the clubhouse.
But the wait certainly wasn’t a boring one. When Giancarlo Stanton — one of the greatest power sluggers currently in baseball — stepped into the cage, all eyes were placed on him, and he didn’t disappoint. Stanton quite simply put on one the most unbelievable batting practice show I’ve ever seen. I had heard a ton about the displays of power he shows off during BP, but actually seeing it in person was amazing.
A few minutes after Stanton concluded his showing off, the Marlins began to wrap up their on field activities and one by one exited the field. As they did so, a great number of the players stopped to sign autographs — with the exception of Michael Morse, who I didn’t see sign a single autograph all day long — but I had an extremely hard time getting them to sign for me. Everything was going wrong — whether it was people blocking me out, the players signing on the opposite side of the tunnel, or them just skipping over me. It was appearing to be one of those days.
With all that went wrong, I only managed to get an autograph from Brett Butler and Donovan Solano before the game. Giancarlo Stanton signed for a lot of people . . . except me. And even Ichiro signed some autographs . . . on the opposite side of the stadium. (Like I said before — it was one of those days.)
Once it became apparent that I wasn’t going to succeed in getting anyone else’s autograph, I reunited with my grandpa back at our ticketed seats to take in the pregame introductions. For the most part, the Grasshoppers didn’t have any extremely noteworthy players, however, they did have the 2014 number two overall draft pick, Tyler Kolek, as part of their roster (on the right below):
For the Marlins, Ichiro and Stanton by far received the biggest applause when they were announced, but it was equally exciting to see every player on their team in person. (Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Michael Morse, all pictured below, were the ones I enjoyed seeing the most):
Shortly after all of the players were introduced, the game begun.
Starting the game for the Grasshoppers was the Marlins’ A.J. Ramos, who gave up a home run to Giancarlo Stanton on the very first pitch he saw. Coming back from a gruesome injury to end 2014, Stanton crushing one during an actual game setting against a big league caliber pitcher appeared to prove that he will be unaffected during the season as some suggested he may be.
Off to a quick 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to the Stanton blast, the Marlins put out Tom Koehler as their starter on the mound against the Grasshoppers, and he was terrific on the day. It was nice to see the Marlins — both their pitching and lineup — do so well with all of the high expectations placed on them for the 2015 season.
It was also nice to see Ichiro in person once again:
Going one for three on the day, this was more than likely the last time I’ll ever see the future Hall of Famer in person, and I did my best to take it in. There are very few players that I would pay just to see them play, but Ichiro is definitely one of them — as is Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout.
Once all was said and done, the Marlins pulled out the win (not surprisingly), 9-6. However, I wasn’t around to see the final few innings of the game. After getting removed from the game in the fourth and fifth innings for replacement players, Giancarlo Stanton, Ichiro, Michael Morse and Christian Yelich, among others, made their way to the clubhouse during the seventh inning stretch. With me not wanting to miss the possible chance at getting an autograph from any of them, I made my way out of the ballpark gates and down the corner to where the players’ exit/entrance is located.
I was one of the first 50 people down there, but before too long, there were around 200 people, I would estimate, trying for autographs from the players as they left. It took around an hour of standing around for the players to begin emerging from the ballpark, but before long they began coming out in bunches.
Michael Morse and Christian Yelich were the first two out, with both briskly walking past everyone without stopping. Next out was Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ichiro, who simply waved before making his way onto the bus.
It began to seem as if every player was going to make a nonstop trek to the bus. However, when Giancarlo Stanton came through the doors, he became the first to decide to stop and sign autographs. But before I had the chance to blink, things went from two deep to a cluster of 50 or so people pushing and bumping into each other all surrounding Stanton and making it virtually impossible for me to get within arms distance of him. So with all hope lost for an autograph, I settled for a picture of him instead, which I had to take by raising my camera high above my head:
After Stanton boarded the bus, things settled down again, and I was finally able to get to the front row. By doing so, I succeeded in getting an autograph from Tom Koehler, as well as Steve Cishek, who I got a better picture of than Stanton due to the quieted crowd:
In the end, I didn’t walk away with an autograph from Ichiro or Stanton (I truly didn’t expect to when the day began), but I did walk away with yet another memory of a great time out at the ballpark. Every time I go to a ballgame, I always have a different, but special, experience.
My sights are now set on the 2015 minor league season, which begins on Thursday.