Guy from Philly forgoes going home to go to spring training

How about a little Saturday morning Stew?

My spring fling continues around Florida, and this was the scene a little while ago outside Bright House Field in Clearwater. Fans of the World Utley Champions and their American League subordinates, the Rays, in line to buy seats to Saturday afternoon's game. Good seats, or at least a good place to stand, was available as of 3 1/2 hours before kickoff.

OMG, a raccoon chase! That wasn't here, actually.

The Phillies clubhouse was closed because Don Fehr was holding a union meeting inside. Norman Rae himself. Or maybe Norman Rae would be Marvin Miller. Milllahhhh! Anyway, I am pro-Fehr, generally, but he's kind of a professional sourpuss.

Anyway, outside I bumped into a Phillies Fan named Tom Woods, who tried (unsuccessfully!) to do a Hulk Hogan flex in a shot I was taking of the nice people standing in line. I actually hoped he would have been flexing in the shot because that kind of stuff (along with raccoon chases) is Internet Gold.

There's Tom. He's a Starbucks employee (not as a barista — he's up the corporate ladder a little) from from Philadelphia, Pa. who lives in Delran, NJ. He cut short going home from a business trip to take care of business at Spring Training. He's done it before. His wife's still probably waiting somewhere in Baltimore to pick him up and drive him home. Patient woman, Mrs. Woods.

He's holding standing-room tickets ("That's all you need," Woods says) and a baseball that Phillies bullpen catcher Tim Gradoville tossed him after a bullpen session.

Tom and Gradoville, a former career minor leaguer, know each other. Woods found Gradoville's game-worn jersey at an end-of-the-season sale one year and bought it for, "like, $25." He was curious about Gradoville, so he looked him up online, e-mailed him and the two became friends.

"Not friends in real life," Woods says. "Just on Facebook."

Sure enough.

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