The first week of Spring Training is officially in the books. From talking to Tommy Lasorda to Walker Buehler recognizing me from a tweet. To say I had an incredible week would be an understatement. It’s been a crazy first week, and I’m excited to see what the rest of my trip has in store.
I drove to Arizona last Tuesday, and I came with my mom and my dog. My mom was only staying until Friday to help my dog get settled to being in a new place. So Tuesday was mostly just a day of getting settled and getting ready for the next 19 days. This was the third time I did the drive to or from Arizona within the past two days. I was happy to settle in and not deal with driving anymore.
On Wednesday the Dodgers played at Peoria Stadium against the Padres. But first, I wanted to go to Camelback Ranch to try and get some autographs. When I was up there the weekend before I took a few selfies with some players and wanted to get them signed. Dylan Baker was one of those players, and he signed the picture for me. I was also able to get Scott Alexander, who should be an asset to our bullpen this season. I wasn’t that successful with autographs on Wednesday, so I drove over to Peoria for the game.
The stadium was practically empty when I got there. Less than 3,000 people showed up for the game, so it was pretty easy to sit wherever you wanted. My friend had bought tickets for the front row, and I went and sat in the empty seat next to her. A few minutes before the game started, the legend, Tommy Lasorda, came and sat in our row. He was only about six seats away from me. We asked his assistant if it would be okay for us to get a picture and autograph with Tommy and he said absolutely. This was when the fun began.
Tommy signs for fans every half inning. They set up a line, and they walk down about five fans at a time to get his autograph or take a picture. His assistant got up and moved a row back to let fans get closer. When we approached Tommy, he ended up pulling the seat down and asking the three of us to sit with him. My friend who bought the tickets sat with him first and talked to him for a little. She knew how important it was for me to meet Tommy, so she was kind enough to get up and let me sit next to him. I sat next to Tommy for about an hour, and we talked baseball pretty much the entire time. I happened to have a Hall of Fame ball in my backpack, so I pulled that out for him to sign. He personalized the autograph and wrote “Love Tom Lasorda” on it. I was smiling from ear to ear.
Tommy left around the 8th inning, and I sat there in shock for the rest of the game stunned at what I was just able to do. A lot of people would pay big money to be in the position I was in, but it just happened to work out I got to do it at a game. When I was leaving the stadium, I thought to myself how there was no way anything would be able to top today. And it was only day one.
Thursday was a pretty awesome day too. I was a lot more successful with autographs on Thursday than I was on Wednesday. At least, quantity wise. Because nothing beats a Tommy autograph. Up and coming prospect, Matt Beaty, signed the selfie I took with him the weekend before. I also got Rich Hill on my blank jersey, as well as Edwin Rios, Keibert Ruiz, and Will Smith. All three of these guys are pretty well-known prospects. However, the best autograph I received of the day was from Walker Buehler, which came with more than your average autograph encounter.
The day before I posted a tweet that said, “I’ve yet to see Walker Buehler sign for anyone. Today he walked past everyone and didn’t even acknowledge the fans saying hello.” I meant no disrespect to Buehler when I posted this. I didn’t even tag him in the post because I didn’t want him to see it. It was more so just to let other fans know what I was seeing when it came to different players. A few hours later I realized he may have been sick like the rest of the team and didn’t want to be around fans for that reason. Anyways, when he was done with practice, he came over to a small group of people near me and signed for all of us, myself included. When he handed me the ball back, he looked at me and said, “I saw your tweet.” At first, it didn’t click, because again, I wasn’t saying it as a negative thing, so I didn’t put two and two together right away. So I asked him, “Which tweet?” He responded by saying, “Oh you know. The one where you said I don’t sign for anyone.” When he said this, he was laughing about it. In my head, I was thinking, “ahh man, this is not good.” I told him I meant no disrespect and that I was just trying to inform fans of what I saw. Everyone standing around me started to laugh, because I mean it was funny. The best part about it though was Buehler was super cool about it. He wasn’t trying to make me look stupid or be a dick. He was just giving it back to me all while having a smile on his face.
It was a fun experience and made getting his autograph that much more memorable. At the end of the day, these guys are regular people just like you and I. They just happen to have a freak athletic ability and play a sport professionally for their job. Buehler didn’t have to sign for me or anyone, but he did because he wanted to. The way he handled the whole situation made me respect him that much more. Being the age, he is and handling it so professionally was awesome to see as a fan. Most players would have walked right past me had they known that was me.
After the autographs, I went into the stadium to get ready for the game against the Indians. I walked over to my seat and realized someone was sitting in it. When I walked over, Alanna Rizzo, looks up at me and says, “Hey what’s up?” and I said, “Oh nothing. You’re just sitting in my seat.” She started to get up, and I told her not to worry about it that I could just sit a couple of seats over. She was sitting with SportsNetLA cameraman, Joe, who was just as nice as Alanna when I walked up. For those of you who have followed me for a while, you may know, that I love Alanna and look up to her in so many ways. So the fact I got to sit next to Alanna for a couple of innings was like another dream come true. I even got to talk to Joe for a while about his career. When I left the game, I was again in shock about my day and what had all just happened.
Friday and Saturday I skipped the whole autograph line because there’s just so many people. I knew I was going to be here for another two weeks so decided I would only do this on weekdays vs. the weekends. I still attended both games these days.
On the weekends the crowd is insane. There are hundreds of people trying to get autographs, and those are obviously the most popular games. If you’re coming out on the weekend be prepared to get here extra early, probably no later than 7:00 am if you want a good spot in line. Also, know that the lines to get into the games on the weekends can take quite a while to get in. If you don’t bring a bag in you can get into a shorter line.
Sunday was a pretty dull day because I didn’t go to the game in Scottsdale against the Giants. I just couldn’t convince myself to spend $40 for a lawn seat at a Spring Training game. So I decided to skip this game. Instead, I went and did Uber for a little while to try and make some money. After a few trips, I decided to stop at a sports bar to try and watch a few innings of the game. I should have known better that even Spring Training games would be blacked out. Even on the Giants network. I was super bummed about this because the Dodgers were playing well and beating up on the Giants. But, luckily, it was only a Spring Training game. Once regular season comes around you know, I won’t be missing any Dodgers-Giants games.
On Monday I decided I wasn’t going to mess with the autograph line and decided to show up around 10:00 am. There were a lot of people here for a weekday. It seemed like quite a few parents kept their kids out of school to enjoy one last day of Spring Training. Instead, I decided to head over to the “B” game and watch Ryu pitch an inning. The “B” game is where they have mostly prospects getting in extra work in game-like scenarios. They also have some big leaguers play in the game if they want to get some extra work in before their next start. Quite a few fans were watching the game, but the area is so small that you’re able to get pretty close to the field to watch.
After watching the “B” game for a little bit, I decided I was going to try and catch some batting practice balls. I thought this would be pretty easy, but I was super wrong. The Dodgers have the dark green screen across the fence which makes it more difficult to see where the batter hit the ball. Not to mention the grown men who are falling on top of each other and getting hurt just to get a ball. After a few of the home run balls came over, I decided not to keep trying, because there were a lot of kids and I wasn’t about to run people over to try and get a ball. Figured I could always try a different day if I wanted to. Instead, I went into the stadium a little early and watched the Dodgers play another great game.
Tuesday I had a pretty good day with autographs. I took a selfie with Dennis Santana and was able to get that signed by him, and I was super stoked about that. I also added DJ Peters, who is going to be an absolute stud one day, as well as Dave Roberts on my blank jersey. All of these autographs made me super happy, but the one autograph that made my week was Matt Kemp! Before I came to Spring Training, I had picked two players that I wanted to get an autograph from. Corey Seager was my absolute number one choice. Matt Kemp was my number two, so the fact I got him in the first week, I was beyond stoked. My heart was broken when the Dodgers traded Kemp away, so this was just like everything coming to a complete circle.
The game that day was against the Cubs at their home stadium. The place was packed, and it was mostly all Cubs fans. With Darvish pitching that game I knew it would be a fun one. The few Dodger fans that were there booed Darvish when they announced his name. When the Dodgers scored in the first inning after a Darvish wild pitch, one fan yelled, “That’s the Darvish I know!” Every Dodger fan, myself included laughed at that one. Unfortunately, the Dodgers starter couldn’t make it out of the 1st inning after he gave up six runs. The Dodgers never retook the lead after the 1st inning.
My first week at Spring Training was a pretty memorable one and one that I will never forget. To see what my week two was like you’ll have to follow along and check back next week!
For daily updates and pictures follow along on my Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat: @dodgers_randi
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