Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Best Kept Secret of Camelback Ranch.

While fans clamor to Glendale, Arizona to watch the big leaguers come out and run through drills, they stand behind ropes and barricades.  Depending on the time of day and whether Sandy Koufax is present, these throngs can number from the hundreds to well over a thousand.  I don’t blame fans for doing so.  This is an opportunity to get up close to their favorite players and perhaps receive an autograph on a piece of memorabilia.  Interaction with the players in spring training is a long-standing Dodger tradition, dating back for decades and it’s no secret that the Dodger organization has been tolerant and supportive of such traditions.  
It’s one of those things that makes the Dodgers stand out from others.  They aren’t the only organization that allows fans to get autographs from players, but they are by far the most fan accessible of all of them.

There’s a piece of CBR that many ignore that is baseball nirvana to a select few that know of it.  They are the back fields.  About 1/8 of a mile walk away where the major leaguers are practicing, this is where a lot of young prospects wearing uniforms with no names on their backs are working with coaches, simulating games, running drills and working on the fundamentals.  It's also the spot where a lot of former Dodgers, many instructors and coaches, have congregated to help out the young prospects.
Don Newcombe told my brother Taylor to have a seat next to him in his golf cart.  They chatted for several minutes as they talked of the old Brooklyn days.

It is future Dodger central and the barricades are not present.    You can sit on a elevated tiered bench, the type that your parents sat and watched you in little league on, and sit next to the likes of Sweet Lou Johnson and Tommy Davis.  Or carry on a friendly conversation with Steve Yeager , Matt Herges or Ramon Martinez (all Dodger organization coaches).

Snapped this photo at the back fields.  That's former Dodger Jody Reed watching the action.

Why doesn’t anyone talk of this?  Well, I don’t think it’s a super secret spot or anything like that.  It’s just that most fans concentrate on the major leaguers.  They like watching the guys with some current fame and recognition in action.  Little do they realize that a lot of hidden gems hang around the back fields.  Imagine talking to Don Newcombe for a half hour about the old Brooklyn days.  I did back in 2011.  it was an unforgettable experience.  Sweet Lou entertained me for a while talking about his rhubarb with the Giants in 1965 and the series that culminated in the Marichal-Roseboro brawl.

Steve Yeager was kind enough to pose for a photograph.  We were absolutely freezing to death that March morning in 2011.

Then there are the prospects.  Most fans wouldn’t recognize a Ross Stripling from an Adam Law or a Kyle Farmer or Chris Jacobs.  To be honest, I’d have difficulty identifying them all but that’s what makes the back fields fun.  If you stay long enough, talk to a coach or two or simply watch, listen and learn, after a few hours you’ll be able to identify many of them.

They’re kids playing a kids game.  They’re working hard and the enthusiasm is vibrant.  Tis is Baseball 101 in full action at the primary levels of the organization.  With apologies to Mr. Weisman, this the the 101st thing that every Dodger fan should do before they die.

1 comment:

  1. That's the one thing I would like to have done more in 2013 Evan. As you noted it is difficult to know who the young players are. There were no lists of players with numbers and no names on uniforms. I have a lot of minor league cards that I could have gotten signed but as much as I watch minor league baseball, I couldn't recognize them as they worked out. I could catch a name now and then on the back of a helmet but then they changed stations.