Earlier this month, Big League Stew toured spring training camps in Florida and Arizona. We saved a couple of posts for now, well, just because. Enjoy this flashback to San Diego Padres headquarters to spy on a Hall of Famer and an up-and-comer.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Dave Winfield and Ted Simmons were talking about hitting by a batting cage. I had to get a closer look and listen. A Hall of Famer and a should-be Hall of Famer.
Like Flounder in "Animal House," I thought, "Oh, this was gonna be great!"
Unfortunately, I got a little too close. Most clubs have rules — the Padres are one — about reporters getting too close to the cage, even during batting practice. On a side field. During spring training. The Texas Rangers, for example, don't seem to care. But the Padres are different.
Anyway, rules are rules and I was pulled aside by media relations and asked not to do it again. Lesson learned. But, before I left, I took some mediocre pictures and listened to some great stuff about Kyle Blanks(notes) from Winfield, who works for the Padres front office.
"I want Kyle Blanks," the 6-foot-6 inch Winfield said loud enough for Blanks to hear 20 feet away. "I want Kyle Blanks to keep hitting those line drives. Just like Winfield did it."
Winfield didn't let up, but Blanks seemed to be listening.
"Cha-ching!" Winfield exclaimed like a cash register as Blanks bat snapped through the hitting zone. "Cha-ching! Get enough of those and it's ribeye steak (RBI) time."
Under a Padres cap, Winfield had on some big ol' blue jeans — also sporting a pack of Red Man in a back pocket — and he wore a pair of white Air Jordan gym shoes.
He's put on some weight since his playing days ended, but the height and wingspan similarities between Winfield and Blanks cannot not go unnoticed.
"They don't make ballplayers like this anymore," Winfield said, about Blanks, to Simmons and another coach, Randy Ready. Both nodded their heads.
Blanks sent a line drive into the air — this time over the left-field fence.
"Cha-ching!" Winfield said.
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