Quick Thoughts from Kissimmee
added 3/17/2001 by David Duez
It's been a real busy time here in Orlando. My wife and I took in the game yesterday at Baseball City and the Astros cruised to a nice win. Craig Biggio homered to center early in the game and Jose Lima actually pitched well. It was a sunny day, despite the weather projections. I'm pretty sunburned at this point. Thankfully, tonight's game was at night in Melbourne, Florida, home of the soon-to-be Miami Marlins (their new downtown Miami stadium should pass sometime this summer). It was a very beautiful warm and breezy nite for baseball.
First, a few comments about the Royals game on Thursday: I'm very worried about Bill Spiers. His back looks to be bothering him a lot. He's tiptoeing around and did not swing the bat with any authority during batting practice. He didn't get an at-bat against the Royals and didn't make the trip to Space Coast Stadium on Saturday night.
Biggio looks great. He's got that hop back in his step and certainly turned on a high fastball in his first at-bat Thursday afternoon. The wind was blowing out but he got all of it. Sitting in the 5th row up just to the first base side in the light blue Baseball City seats, I had a real nice view of that Dirt Devil helmet he wears. If he can get on base and get back to hitting all those doubles from two years ago he could make a big difference in an offense that was already deadly last year.
"Lima Time" was actually a Good Time on Thursday. Three or four Sporting News baseball writers sat behind us in the stands and they were impressed with Lima's "stuff" - but truthfully the Royals had only one or two good bats in their lineup. But Lima did pitch well to guys like Jermaine Dye, who Lima K'd twice.
The Astros bats didn't do much until the 8th inning. Except for Biggio's homer the game went along pretty quickly. Moises Alou stroked a double and also had another liner to the outfield tracked down. Chris Truby looks "bulked up" from last year and swung a slow bat. He didn't look real impressive to me and has batted 9th and 8th respectively in the past two days.
Doug Brocail pitched two nice innings at the end of the game. He's a big man and was bringing it in the heat of Grapefruit play, which means that he was facing AA Royal players of "no-name" caliber.
Friday's trip to Melbourne to watch the Marlins/Astros tilt was very enjoyable. It is about an hour or so from Kissimmee and is a beautiful little jewel of a minor league facility. The Brevard County Manatees play there during the minor league season and this beach community came out to support their home team. It was a very nice crowd and a perfect night for baseball.
Wade Miller pitched extremely well. He has good mound presence and pitched through lots of misplays by Jose Vizcaino at second. Biggio, Alou, Spiers, and other assorted pitchers didn't make the trip. Bagwell did, thank goodness. His homer to left-centerfield was a classic Bagwellian blast. Lots of topspin and the ball was launched out of Space Coast and may still be in orbit around the East Coast of Florida.
Daryle Ward played the whole game in right and looked great at the plate. This guy can hit and it's such a shame he has to be the fourth outfielder on this team. If he could start getting his 450 at-bats a year now it's no telling where he'd be in just a short season or two. But, we should be happy to have that line drive machine coming off the bench. Watching him twirl the bat in the on deck circle like it's a toothpick is quite the site. My wife Norma says, "I just know he studied to be a baton twirler."
Billy Wagner made an inning appearance and I was impressed with his slider. He snuck it by everyone and to my knowledge no one made contact on the little bender. His fastball varied in speed but it was popping the mitt when it had to and the crowd behind home plate watched in awe as little #13 was bringing it. He did walk one man, but struck out another to quickly retire the side. I can't wait to see #1 Keith Ginter come up to the big leagues. And a big part of me hopes for Truby to screw up badly enough to bring Ginter up soon. He's a power-packed little guy and I just love his hustle. Morgan Ensberg too is another worth watching and could be a person to sneak up with Ginter if Biggio continues down the injury road. Three guys that we could probably do without are Vizcaino, Charlie Hayes, and Orlando Merced. One guy may see them as "veteran bats off the bench." But, through my eyes they are "over the hill" and should be shown the door. Here is a scenario I do not want to have happen? Biggio gets injured and we try to plug Vizcanio at second. Argh. Or Truby struggles and we stick Hayes at third. Ugh. I'd rather see us go with Ginter/Ensberg/Adam Everett trio than the long white beards. Just one man's opinion.
Still I might have to make a trip to Louisiana some time during the season to see the young guns we have coming up. I haven't seen Gold-Medal-winning Roy Oswalt yet and I'm hoping he pitches Sunday at Osceola County Stadium. The New Orleans team should have some nice players to start the season with. Everett, Ensberg and Ginter make a nice infield. Picking a game in New Orleans to attend when Oswalt draws a start would be a smart thing to do.
Well, we are enjoying the weather here; it's been partly cloudy but not nearly as rainy and bad as the forecasters have called for. And we certainly are enjoying the results on the field. The Astros have won both games we've seen. I'm not going to Disney to see the Braves/Astros until tomorrow? I didn't get tickets and don't want to pay frozen Walt to sit on his grass down the left field line. The Bravos can stick it. I did go over and look around the "Wide World of Sports" Site and the All Star Cafe Diner served up okay food. But, it was nothing special.
It was neat to see the ESPN Zone at the Boardwalk at Disney on Thursday night. We watched from outside as Peter Gammons and company taped the show. Speaking of Gammons, he was at Baseball City on Thursday interviewing Bagwell. On Friday night the Baseball Tonight gang, led by Harold Reynolds was at the Marlins game. At one point they were interviewing Baggy as an inning ended and the 2nd, 3rd and shortstop were left without anyone to warm them up as Reynolds kept interviewing Bagwell between innings. Reynolds spent about 4-5 innings with the Astros and then made an appearance over with the Marlins before checking out. I wish I had Tivo and had taped Baseball Tonight during the week. It'd be neat to splice the coverage together with some of the footage we took with our home movie cam.
As much as I love these minor league parks, close access to the players and being off work? I can't wait for March 30th for the opening game at Enron vs. the Red Sox. Let's get the party started.