In 24 hours I’ll be on my way to Surprise. The agenda
is blurry, just as I want it to be. As I always say before this trip,
peripheral vision and a flexible schedule are crucial.
This year’s version of the annual “32 things I’m looking
forward to seeing” list:
1. Are you ever fixated on watching DeMarcus Ware from
snap to whistle, or Dwyane Wade with or without the ball, or Steve Ott
regardless of where the puck is, just to see how they do it? That’s Elvis
Andrus for me for the next week. During stretch. During BP. With teammates,
with fans, with reporters. And at shortstop, before and during and after the
pitch, no matter where, or whether, the ball is put in
2. Michael Main. It’s his last year in the back of the
3. Max Ramirez, hopefully. His late-inning cameos for
Team Venezuela in the WBC aren’t doing him
a whole lot of good.
4. Mike Maddux, working with Derek Holland and Neftali
5. Actually would stop down to watch Maddux working with
Brandon McCarthy, too.
6. From 40-41 to 81-0. That’s not a prediction on the
Rangers’ improvement at home. It’s the temperature and chance of rain I’m (1)
leaving and (2) heading for.
7. Chris Davis finding his rhythm. He
8. The fivesome that stands to form the richest rotation
in minor league baseball: likely Hickory Crawdads Martin Perez, Wilfredo Boscan,
Joe Wieland, Neil Ramirez (who has eluded me in my three trips to Surprise since
he was drafted), and Carlos Pimentel.
9. Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s
10. Wilmer Font’s, too. Different
11. The engineering advances that have surely
Road from perpetual gridlock to a stinkin’ Greater
Phoenix autobahn. Surely.
12. Justin Smoak.
13. Righthander Guillermo Moscoso, imported from
Detroit, and outfielder Juan Polanco, imported
from the Rangers’ Dominican Academy.
14. Joaquin Arias’s arm. Enough hyperbole. I want to
see where it’s at for myself.
15. Michael Young from 10 a.m. until 11:30 each day.
(In the afternoon, too, if someone would hit a tough chance his way in a
16. Someone sending Julio Borbon a tough chance or two
17. Pedro Strop, without
18. Someone jumping out the way Ian Kinsler did at
spring training in 2004 and Derek Holland did at Fall Instructs in 2007 and
spring training in 2008.
19. Don Welke, holding
20. Mountains in just about every direction,
other than up, where the Luke AFB training exercises go on all day, and into the
21. Little O, 20 years
22. Engel Beltre’s approach catching up with his
promise, I hope.
23. The Rangers episode of MLB Network’s “30 Clubs in 30
Days,” on March 18.
24. A huge NYPD pizza and a bottle of
25. No two-toned helmets.
26. Josh Hamilton, whom it’s impossible to take your
eyes off of. Only Nolan Ryan and Ivan Rodriguez had that before him. Alex
27. Greg Golson in batting practice and outfield
drills. Very different player, but I used to anticipate Nelson Cruz the same
way going into camp.
28. Yoga. Lots of yoga. No, wait. That’s Ginger. No
29. Brandon Boggs, perhaps the most unfairly overlooked
player in the system. (I took that one, word for word, from last year’s
30. Though Kennil Gomez probably deserves that tag now.
31. Writing every day. (Now’s a good time to tell your
pals who make you forward reports to them from time to time to go ahead and sign
up themselves. Instructions are at the end of this
32. A memory with the lasting impact of Ron Washington
spontaneously grabbing a fungo last March while talking to beat reporters and
slapping a ground ball at Max, who at age three gathered it in the way it’s
supposed to be done, or of Michael Young, on his way to morning stretch four
days later, wordlessly engaging Max in a game of catch that half a dozen
teammates stopped down to watch.
Stay tuned for daily reports from Surprise, plus a
Rangers-intensive appearance or a few on the Ben & Skin
show on 105.3 FM The Fan.