THE NEWBERG REPORT — MARCH 13, 2007

Like Icarus ignoring sound heliological principles, like Barry Switzer defiantly relying on “Load Left,” like Brad Lidge giving Albert Pujols something to hit, I have nobody to blame but myself.

I knew from years of experience that there was exactly one choice not to make, and I summoned up every ounce of hubris I could, and made that one choice anyway.

I chose Grand Avenue. Taunted it.

NEVER AGAIN.

Sixteen years ago, when I made my third trip to spring training, there was one indelible baseball memory, and it happened no more than five minutes after we got out of the car at the end of the drive from Austin to Kissimmee. I saw a 20-year-old named Raul Mondesi fire a laser from right field to cut some Astros player down at the plate. He immediately became the player whose big league debut, which was still two years away, I couldn’t wait for.

Sixteen years from now, I imagine the most lasting memory from this trip will be one that also happened within minutes of us walking through the gates at our first game, on our first day. The sound of the Yovani Gallardo fastball that struck Nelson Cruz in the helmet — and evidently caught some of his unshielded face as well — registered in my brain as a foul ball, and probably one that broke Cruz’s bat, until I noticed the fallen Cruz writhing in pain on the ground. Scary, scary moment.

Cruz is apparently going to be OK. After several minutes on the ground under trainer Jamie Reed’s care, he walked off the field, lucid and on his own feet, and a CT scan at the hospital showed no signs of a concussion or a fracture. More evaluations today. At best, it’s going to be another ding to add to the sore hamstring and shin splints that have slowed Cruz this spring.

Mark Teixeira’s left knee is sore, Gerald Laird’s left foot is bruised, and Hank Blalock’s left calf is sore. Miguel Ojeda’s got a bruised thumb as well. All could be minor, but the tweaks are adding up.

Two groundouts and a four-pitch walk from Eric Gagne in yesterday’s B game, and his day was done, as planned. He worked at 88-91 in his Rangers debut. Eleven pitches, no concerns.

There could be some cuts today — not releases or designations for assignment, but procedural moves to reassign some players in camp to the minor league side.

Lots of jaw-dropping moments for Max yesterday — the literal kind — both on the flight over real mountains and at the first baseball game he’d been to in six months, which I suspect to a two-and-a-half-year-old seems like a lifetime. Erica was in impressive mentor mode, especially on the berm in Maryvale, where the kids were putting on a show for 14 college students from Lubbock, about 10 of whom were there because they’d grown up with Laynce Nix in Midland.

Looking forward to more good stuff today, starting with the back fields this morning and Texas vs. John Danks in the afternoon. I don’t know what exactly the day will have in store, but I know one thing it won’t.

Grand Freakin’ Avenue.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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