Spring Training, Day 9: The real world intrudes

It’s safe to say that in 12 seasons covering baseball, I’ve never had a day quite like today. It started out normally enough, going to the park around 3:30 like I’ve done for hundreds of games in the past.

Then I got to the press box at Roger Dean Stadium and it was absolutely packed. There were no seats in either row, only at the tables behind the main seating. That was my first indication of what I should have already known — Team Venezuela is a big deal. I did manage to squeeze into a seat, but that question turned out to be an utter afterthought.

Sometime around 5 pm, word came down that Hugo Chavez had died. It was not just a twitter hoax, we soon learned. And suddenly the task of covering the Venezuelan World Baseball Classic team had a bit of a different feel to it.

It was challenging trying to get anywhere as a non-Spanish speaker, but people worked together and helped each other out. I was able to get a few comments (and no-comments) on Chavez — who, of course, was extremely polarizing.

Then the game, and it was entertaining as well. The Venezuelan starting nine is just ridiculously good, but we got a reminder that baseball is weird. Anybody can beat anybody, and the Marlins without Giancarlo Stanton can beat the Venezuelan national team.

Postgame, Luis Sojo spoke a little bit about Chavez and a good bit about baseball. Then Zambrano gave what seemed to be some very heartfelt words about the president. Unfortunately for me, it was in Spanish so I can’t be entirely certain. I asked for, and received, a partial translation. Essentially, Zambrano expressed human sympathy for Chavez and his family, rather than taking any kind of political stand. I wish I had understood more of it.

So, yeah, tomorrow will probably be a little more routine.

The game in a nutshell: Miguel Cabrera was a force, but the Marlins kept coming back. Chris Coghlan had four hits and scored three runs as Miami came back from deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 to win, 6-5.

Quote of the day: “I think for the respect of Venezuela, they have to do something [before] the first game against the Dominicans.” — Carlos Zambrano, on the fact that there was no moment of silence for Chavez before tonight’s game

Player of the day: Coghlan certainly has a case, but for me it’s Cabrera. Four at-bats, four screamers. Two doubles, one of them to the wall. One homer, a mammoth shot to left. And even his out was loud, a liner to center.

Miles driven: 25 today, 1025 on the trip

Miles run: 3 today, 16 1/2 on the trip

Roadside sight of the day: It’s not exactly roadSIDE so much as on the road. In the span of 45 minutes or so driving around today, I saw two Ferraris, two Bentleys and an Aston Martn. And that’s not even counting the player parking lots. Welcome to Palm Beach County.

Starbucks trips: 1 today, 9 for the trip

Up next: I’m in Jupiter again tomorrow, but this time with a little more familiar assignment. I’ll be stepping in for the esteemed Jenifer Langosch on the Cardinals beat when they play the Marlins. Looking forward to occupying my old seat. And also to lunch from Pyros.

Ballpark music note of the day: Oh, dear, RDS, you can do better than you did tonight. BEPs, Pitbull, Sandstorm, I know y’all have some good tunes. Heck, last year you welcomed me with some New Order. Please?

And, finally, the playlist:

We reach the top. And for me, these five albums really did stand out above all the rest. No. 1 was an easy, easy call. And really, the rest of the top-5 came together pretty easily. See the past 4 entries for an explanation of what’s going on here, if it’s not clear.

The second half of Erin’s top-10:

Craig Finn, “No Future” (Clear Heart, Full Eyes)
Big Sean/Jay-Z/Kanye West, “Clique” (GOOD Music–Cruel Summer)
Santigold, “Keepers” (Master of My Make-Believe)
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built” (Celebration Rock)
Metric, “Breathing Underwater” (Synthetica)

And my top-5:

Justin Townes Earle, “Unfortunately Anna” (Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, No. 5)
Cloud Nothings, “Fall In” (Attack On Memory, No. 4)
Bruce Springsteen, “Rocky Ground” (Wrecking Ball, No. 3)
Patterson Hood, “(untold pretties)” (Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance, No. 2)
Japandroids, “Younger Us” (Celebration Rock, No. 1)

FWIW, “(untold pretties)” and “Younger Us” may also be my two favorite songs of the year, not just my favorite songs from my two favorite albums. Great stuff.

-M.

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