It was exciting coming to the field this past Thursday when some of my closest teammates/friends and I had the opportunity to reunite. Two of these players include outfielder Aaron Luna and infielder Jermaine Curtis, with whom I am probably the closest.
I have played with Jermaine ever since high school. We were on the same travel team growing up and played against each other in college. We have been on the same team at some point every single year since being drafted by the Cardinals in 2008.
Aaron was drafted the same year as Jermaine and I and we too have clicked ever since. His Texas swagger makes him such an easygoing and likeable guy. You would swear he was from California with his laid back personality. It's being around guys like Jermaine and Aaron that make this game fun and enjoyable. Just goes to show that the relationships you make in this game of baseball are something that we will always to be able to cherish.
Anyway, the first few days have been great. Everyone has so much energy and is so excited to be back on the field. Mark DeJohn, a former short season manager of mine, is coordinating spring training this year. It's a little change because the past few years Mike Shildt had been running it. However so far it has been run just as smoothly as the past years and with "DJ's" personality, I'm sure he will keep it lively and fun.
One down side to spring training is having to hear the weight and conditioning coaches, who lead stretching every morning, yelling at us like 12-year-olds taking gym class in middle school. Don't get me wrong, I love every single one of these guys but I think they are just too over the top in the morning. You can hear them yelling the same three phrases every day, "Stay behind the cone! Wait till I say go! No talking!" You would swear some of them were drill sergeants. I can't wait to get to the big leagues just so I don't have to hear someone yelling at me while I'm stretching at 9:00 in the morning.
Ok, now that I got that off my chest, I can tell you about how I was able to play in my first spring training game. The Cardinals were facing the Red Sox that day and we were in the middle of our batting practice session on the minor league fields. My group was scheduled to be last. Right before my group was to be called in to hit, it starting raining. They called off Batting Practice and told everyone to head to the cages. I grabbed my things and headed there.
The group before mine had to finish their last round of hitting before it was our turn. Once it was our turn, I jumped in the cage for a round of seven. Some new coach I had never seen before was throwing to me and it took him about 14 pitches to throw seven strikes, but that's beside the point. I exited the cage after taking my cuts when DJ proceeded to tell me to get dressed and head over to the big league field.
Of course when he told me I was immediately excited because I had never dressed out for a big league game in the past. I ran inside and there was my assigned uniform, #95, and I got dressed. I then went out to the field (Roger Dean Stadium) and started to warm up. They had been in the middle of a rain delay and were just about to resume play in the top of the 4th inning.
I figured if I was going to be used, it would probably be towards the end of the game. Maybe the 7th, 8th or 9th inning was what I was thinking. So there I was in the same dugout as players that I truly admire such as Yadier Molina and Jon Jay who both came up in the Cardinals organization. By no means was it overwhelming because I've always pictured myself ready to be in a big league dugout and the fact that I have played in Roger Dean Stadium for the past two years during the minor league season gave me a sense of familiarity. However while playing for the Palm Beach Cardinals I have never seen the stadium as packed as it was this day.
During the middle of the game (bench coach Mike Aldrete told me to start getting loose. I looked up at the scoreboard and it was the 6th inning with the game tied 0-0. I was excited because I thought that maybe I will actually be used in a meaningful situation. We were facing a left handed pitcher on the mound so Aldrete told me to be ready to pinch hit for the lefties we had coming up in the order. Consequently I started stretching, using that time to get myself mentally and physically ready.
Four lefties came to the plate that inning including Matt Carpenter, Mark Hamilton, Matt Adams and Erik Komatsu. I started thinking that I probably wasn't going to hit that inning with all the lefties having taken their at bats. At this time we had scored three runs and the score was 3-0. Komatsu was up to bat. Pete Kozma was on deck who had just entered the game the inning before and hadn't had an at bat so I thought to myself maybe next inning I'll get in there.
Just as I was about to put down my bat, Komatsu grounded to third and that's when I heard, " Scruggs, let's go! You're in there." As much as I wanted to drive in the runner standing on third with two outs, it didn't happen. I ended up striking out against a lefty I know I should normally crush. It will eat at me until I get the next opportunity.
However I thank God to have been given the opportunity in the first place. It's nice to have an at bat under the belt. I wasn't really nervous during my at bat but probably a little more anxious then I should have been. All in all it was a great learning experience and can't wait until the next time.
I just want to say thanks for all the support I'm getting from everybody and I'm continuing to work hard to reach my goals. I was once told "It's not a sprint, but it is a marathon to the finish". It only helps to know I have people waiting for me at the finish line.
Follow me on Twitter @Xavier_Scruggs.
Link to my earlier reports from spring training and winter ball in Colombia.
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