Dan's spring fling: Old Timers Day in Camps • Latino Sports

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Dan’s spring fling: Old Timers Day in Camps

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LAKELAND, Fla. — As Al Kaline hangs onto the back of the batter’s cage at Joker Marchant Stadium, fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Cox walks over to greet him.

Fred McGriff, who has designs on his own Cooperstown plaque, brings out the lineup card before a Braves game in nearby Lake Buena Vista.

Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff

Mariano Rivera may be retired but he’s still pitching advice to younger Yankees. Image Credit: Daniel Budasoff

Mariano Rivera, ticketed for first-ballot induction in 2019, thrills fans of the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

They are just three among dozens of famous names back in uniform as special spring training coaches, instructors, or advisors.

Every team has a few, some more than a handful. The Los Angeles Dodgers have left Vero Beach, their spring home of 60 years, but Sandy Koufax and Tommy Lasorda have not left the Dodgers — at least not in this wistful spring.

Even Barry Bonds is back, serving as a special instructor for the San Francisco Giants while baseball writers try to determine whether he deserves a niche in the Hall despite his legal wrangles. Fans of the Giants, at least, are pleased to see him.

McGriff took time Wednesday to reveal that ribs injured in a Padres-Giants

In a camp dedicated to home run king Hank Aaron, Fred McGriff is a major presence

In a camp dedicated to home run king Hank Aaron, Fred McGriff is a major presence

brawl almost prevented him from playing immediately after his trade from San Diego to Atlanta before the July 31, 1993 trading deadline.

The lanky first baseman had driven from his Tampa home to Atlanta, a trek that consumed six hours, but arrived only an hour before game-time. While the trainer was working on his ribs, McGriff heard his new teammates screaming that the stadium was on fire.

Indeed, the press box was quickly consumed by flames that forced a two-hour delay in the start of the game. That allowed McGriff to get more relief for his ribs and come out swinging. He homered that night, leading the Braves past the Cardinals, and was as hot as the burning ballpark the rest of that season.

Comments from the camps:

Cleveland is raving about 21-year-0ld shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor . . .

Alex Rios provides more pop to the Kaycee order

Alex Rios provides more pop to the Kaycee order

Kansas City, hoping added power will help it win the AL Central this season, got back-to-back homers from newcomers Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios in the first inning of their first games as Royals . . .

The Boston Red Sox weren’t so lucky, losing heralded Cuban rookie Rusney Castillo indefinitely with a strained oblique — the same injury that has kept Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons sidelined . . .

San Francisco World Series hero Madison Bumgarner yielded four runs in an exhibition start limited to 1 2/3 innings . . .

The Detroit Tigers, who have stayed in one spot longer than any other team (50 years), extended their Lakeland lease by 50 more years . . .

Durable rightfielder Hunter Pence, counted on to play every day by the Giants, may be out til Memorial Day after breaking his forearm (hit by a pitch) . . .

Substance abuse suspensions sidelined former MVP Josh Hamilton (Angels)

The huge Angel investment in Josh Hamilton has turned into a question-mark

The huge Angel investment in Josh Hamilton has turned into a question-mark

from 2002-2006 but he’s had three relapses since reinstatement . . .

Joel Hanrahan’s hopes of a comeback have been put to rest by the Tigers, who released him when the pitcher was recommended for repeat Tommy John surgery . . .

Writers in Florida are wondering out loud whether the Boston Red Sox will be able to get all the snow out of Fenway Park in time for Opening Day . . .

The second oldest ballpark, Wrigley Field, is also a prime topic after the Cubs ordered crews to work around the clock in an effort to replace the crumbling bleachers and spruce up the signage . . .

Mike Minor was a winner in arbitration but a loser on the trainer's room.

Mike Minor was a winner in arbitration but a loser on the trainer’s room.

Atlanta lefty Mike Minor, after going 6-12 last year, not only beat the club in arbitration but now is out indefinitely with yet another bout of the same shoulder soreness that stymied him last season . . .

Washington comeback candidate Dan Uggla delivered a strong base-hit in his first at-bat against his former Braves team Friday . . .

Veteran Minnesota outfielder Torii Hunter wants to emulate Dave Stewart, a former World Series star who finally became a general manager (Arizona) . . .

Johan Santana, nearly 36, hasn’t been in the majors since 2012 but remains on the comeback trail, this time with Toronto . . .

Union chief Tony Clark admits there are discussions about big-league teams playing exhibition games in Cuba following the renewal of diplomatic ties earlier this year . . .

Ex-Met Jose Reyes, now with the Blue Jays, has disparaged the work ethic of successor Ruben Tejada . . .

Don't invite Jose Reyes (here) and Ruben Tejada to the same party. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Don’t invite Jose Reyes (here) and Ruben Tejada to the same party.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Texas ace Yu Darvish, shut down in early August last year, is still not fully healthy (triceps issues) . . .

If the Atlanta Braves decide to retire No. 33 in honor of 1957 World Series hero Lew Burdette, they’ll have to give manager Fredi Gonzalez another number . . .

After hitting 40 points below his career average in his first season with the Yankees, Brian McCann believes he can handle the noise, pressure, and expectations better this season . . .

That huge collection of kids in the Cubs clubhouse is clinging to controversial Manny Ramirez, added as a special hitting instructor this year, like chicks holding onto a mother hen . . .

Two survivors of Tommy John surgery likely to start this season late are Jose Fernandez (Marlins) and Matt Moore (Rays) . . .

Mets manager Terry Collins is mulling the idea of moving Daniel Murphy, his most prolific hitter last year, down in the lineup to maximize his RBI chances . . .

Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, 37, is the youngest manager in the majors . . .

Ichiro pursues his quest for 3000 hits in Miami. Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Ichiro pursues his quest for 3000 hits in Miami.
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Although hordes of Japanese media are following Ichiro, a new acquisition by the Miami Marlins, they were disappointed by his 0-for-3 spring debut . . .

They may throw lefthanded but how much can Barry Zito (A’s) or Phil Coke (Cubs) help their new teams? . . .

The Mets went wild when erstwhile ace Matt Harvey, sidelined most of 2014 by Tommy John surgery, made a strong first start in exhibition play . . .

Trying to speed up the game, MLB will soon fine players whose antics on the mound or at the plate don’t conform to the digital clocks added to every spring training and regular-season ballpark . . .

The game will miss Minnie Minoso, who spent 12 of his 17 seasons with the White Sox and played so well that the team memoralized him with a ballpark statue.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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