While at the backfields on Monday, another fan told me a good place to try to get autos was the entrance to the player's parking lot. My son made it to the entrance at 6:30 Wednesday morning. There was another 10 or 12 people there already. It felt strange standing there in the dark waiting for a chance that one of the many large 4x4 trucks with tinted windows may stop. It was nice to pass the time talking to the few other fans that were there. After about 45 minutes one of the trucks stopped.
While we were waiting at the entrance, a lot of the minor league players were coming to the complex. Some walked from the apartments across the street or down a block or so, while others arrived by bus. Some would stop and say hi on their way to the clubhouse. My son recognized Cardinals #1 prospect Alex Reyes.
We left around 7:30 to go back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the family. We returned around 9:00 when the gates to the practice fields opened. One of the gate keepers mentioned that the starting pitchers would be at field 3 at 9:30 to throw batting practice. We had tickets for batting practice at 10;00, so I thought we had plenty of time to watch for a while and maybe get more autos. At 9:50 no one had showed up yet, so we left. Found out later they had practiced before the gates were open. I heard this was the case many times this spring that the players did not follow the schedule the gate keepers had.
I had tickets for the Cardinals 1:00 game against the Marlins that afternoon. I had also bought a special batting practice ticket that allowed us on the field to watch the Cardinals take practice at 10:00. This was limited to 50 people so it seemed like another good chance for autos. The group meet at the front gate and was escorted down the first base line to a spot about 50 feet behind the batting cage. There were 2 other groups on the field already. One group of about 20 was along the third base dugout, another group of 20 along the first base dugout. False advertising in my book.
A few minutes into practice, one of the coaches gave my son a ball.
Hard to tell from the scan, but it is a spring training ball with the Florida stamp on it. A handful of other fans got a ball as the hour long practice went, but that was it. Not one player signed a single auto for anyone. It did not help that a middle aged man kept yelling at the players while they were swinging to sign for him. I did get some cool pictures though.
Matt Holliday with his Grizzly Adams beard
The newer slimmed down version of Matt Adams
We had an hour and a half to kill before the start of the game, so we grabbed a quick bite of overpriced chicken and fries and headed to our seats. 2 of us sat a couple of rows off the field behind the Cardinals' bullpen pitching mound, while the other 2 were one section over in the second row. My daughter and I could barely squeeze into our seats because of all the autograph seekers by the bullpen. The Cardinals have to walk down the right field line to get to the dugout, so this was prime autograph territory. I don't mind kids who do not have a ticket in our section taking up space, but adults are a different story. I had the misfortune of sitting next to a 300 plus pound man who took up half my seat. After 15 minutes of him not moving and his body odor, we decided to walk around the stadium until closer to game time.
My wife and son also had a crowd in their section, but an older couple in the front row was very vocal about people being in their seats. They did allow my son to stand next to them because he was being polite. He snagged 3 autos on a ROMLB baseball.
The top signature is Dean Kiekhefer, the bottom I will save for another post. Kiekhefer is a left handed reliever who has a shot of making his MLB debut this year. His delivery is a mix between side arm and submariner. We have talked to him at minor league games last season and he is your typical quirky left hander.
Day 2 was not as fun or productive as day 1, but we still had a good time. Anything beats a cold spring day back in Illinois.