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July 23, 2009

Fort Lauderdale in the rear-view

Roch Kubatko featured me today in his nostalgic entry at The School of Roch about the years we spent covering spring training together in Fort Lauderdale. I actually got a little misty remembering all the springs we roomed together before he moved over to MASN. This past spring was the first time in about a decade that we didn't share a condo for those six or seven weeks.

I'm pretty much sworn to secrecy on a lot of it, though I don't understand why. Most of the girls Roch dated during that period didn't use their real names anyway. My favorite memory -- that can be printed here -- was at the beginning of one of his ill-fated relationships, when he was explaining to me how this particular beauty was different from all the others.

fort-lauderdale-beach.jpg"This one's special, man,'' he said. "I'm so sure about her I even told her my real age."

Roch was like the little brother I never had. Early one morning, he woke me up and was in terrible abdominal pain. I mean terrible. Roch is no wimp, so I figured something was really wrong. I was pretty convinced he had appendicitis, so I forced him into the car and headed for the nearest emergency room. When we got there, he didn't want to go in.

"Let's just sit out here for awhile and see if it gets better,'' he said, forcing me to reassess the whole wimp equation.

So we did, and the pain began to subside, and eventually we went back to the condo. He must have gotten some bad sushi -- really the only possibility because Roch doesn't eat anything else -- or had that kind of appendicitis Brady Anderson had during his 50-homer season.

Roch is one of the most naturally funny guys you'll ever meet, but you better have a thick skin. Recently one of the local radio guys walked past a group of us in the lockerroom at training camp.

"Now there's a sexy guy,'' Roch said. "Ninety-seven pounds. None of it chin."

When I limped into the press box on crutches a week or so ago with my leg in a large splint after suffering a severed Achilles tendon, somebody walked up to me and asked what happened. Roch was sitting in the row behind me and piped right up.

"The blog wars,'' he said, "have turned violent."

If we're going to list our favorite Fort Lauderdale memories, here are few that pop to mind, though I don't have Roch's vivid memory:

The turtle incident: This one's easy to remember because it happened this past spring. I was driving to camp when I noticed that traffic was being obstructed by a large turtle trying to cross Atlantic Avenue. When I got close enough, I stopped the car, got out and picked the turtle up to carry it off the road. But I neglected to remember that turtles have a unique defense mechanism when they are frightened and ended up at camp with my favorite silk shirt soaked (and I mean soaked) with turtle pee.

Best quote came from MLB.com's Spencer Fordin, who refused to believe that I had actually rescued the turtle: "I think you just made that up so you'd have an excuse for why you smell like turtle pee."

The designated driver: I stopped going to a fun place on Las Olas Boulevard a couple of years ago after they booted me out for not buying a drink. When I explained that I was the designated driver and had four friends at the bar spending a lot of money, they told me that I still had to buy two drinks if I wanted to stay. Now, that's South Florida. To be fair, they did offer me the option of buying two glasses of water at full cocktail price.

South Beach prices: It's very common in South Beach to have hawkers try to draw you into the curbside dining areas with special offers, most of them 2-for-1 drink specials. I tried to take advantage of one this past spring, but had the good sense to ask how much they charged for a large margarita. It was $28.50.

Roid rage: In a major upset, this memory does not involve Roch. I got so mad at my former colleague Joe Strauss one day in the tiny Fort Lauderdale Stadium press work room that I chased him into the hall and threw a chair at him, and not some featherweight WWE folding chair. Everybody, including Joe, still laughs at the sight of him running down the hall with this big chair bouncing behind him. But, since all is quickly forgiven in spring training, he showed up at my condo that night as if nothing had ever happened. "Where do you want to eat,'' he said, and that was pretty much that.

Now, here's one of my favorite memories from the two springs I spent in Sarasota early in my Baltimore Sun career:

During those days, I liked to go to the small greyhound track in town, so we set up a dinner there that included me, Evening Sun beat writer Jim Henneman, Orioles PR guy Rick Vaughn and his wife Sue, and manager Johnny Oates and his wife Gloria.

Since we were going to eat a long dinner and nobody had any real expertise with the greyhounds, we decided that we'd each throw in $50 and give it to a racetrack friend of Henny's who worked as a ticket-seller. Nice guy who we still know whose nickname is right out of a Damon Runyon story.

Smoothie.

Well, the first few races didn't go very well and we were enjoying a few adult beverages and Vaughn suddenly starts laughing, even though nobody said anything funny. So I asked him what was on his mind.

"We just gave 300 bucks to a guy named Smoothie,'' he said. "That can't be a sound financial strategy."

Maybe you had to be there, but we'll be there again in February and I, for one, can't wait. I might even be able to walk by then.

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 10:29 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Comments

Great stuff, Schmucker. Thanks. I'll most definitely be linking this entry later. Good times...good times. And thanks for not including EVERY Rocco story.

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Pete's reply: Of course, if I included every Rocco story, then I would have to write that book.

whoa, this looks like a first with the Roch comment...great posts today by you guys.

Pete,

You got me a little chocked up talking about your Bro-mance with Roch. I do however feel like I need to go watch one of the Rambo movies, so I can get my testosterone level to where it was before I started reading your story.

One night, at one of the restaurants on Ocean Drive in South Beach, I tried to take advantage of the 2 for 1 drink, and when the check came it was explained to me that the Martini's I ordered did not qualify for the promotion.

They are also so overly agressive trying to pull you in from the sidewalk my wife and I walk on the other side of the street (the Ocean side) until we get to the restaurant we are going to, then cross the street.

Great article Pete, and it certainly comes at a great time to divert the attention of how the orioles have been playing on the field to where they are going to play.I am only posting today because Jim palmer was quoted yesterday as saying how disinterested the orioles really look. Well it certainly has become a hot topic this morning on the Mark Viv show this morning. I guess when a hall of fame pitcher that has played on winning teams speaks it becomes facts and when Bob Lancione speaks it just becomes some negative fan complaining again. See Pete the one thing that Andy hasn't taken into account, with his grand plan is that the orioles like melvin and brian are completely mentality fatigued with all this losing. The only reason i only mentioned those two players is because they have endured the most, but make no mistake it's taken a toll on nick, huff,as well. Andy keeps telling everybody that he will grow the arms and buy the bats , but until they get a pitching staff assembled that gives them a legtimate chance to win every game that they pitch in the above mentioned players have all reachd there end.In all my previous posts i have been very critical of brian Roberts but after careful thought i have been wrong. There is no way that you can continue to play this game on a high level when you feel you don't have any chance to win. And the oriole don't have any chance of winning, no matter what anybody say's. They could and should have won every game in this yankee series but they couldn't because the yankee's know they can win and the orioles can't figure out how to win. No matter what you say or anybody else say's Brian roberts is mentality fatigued and the losing has left a incureable mark that will never change until he is playing on a contender,that will make coming to the park a pleasure instead of chore. Andy you will lose huff and melvin next year, you have already lost brian mentality with nick a close step behind,so please tell me how this plan can work.

As always, I love your blog. Have to admit that ever since you hipped me to Roch being over at MASN, (and espn.com & baltimoreorioles/ravens.com) I haven't commented as much, but between work and war, I don't know what I'd do without my two favorite sports writers and I don't miss a blog or story that you post.

Much appreciated.

Kevin In Iraq!


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Pete's reply: Thanks man. Stay safe and get back here so we can buy you a beer at Sliders.

Blancione,

It's not my intention to nitpick your comments, but If I'm not mistaken this was the theme of your post:

"he one thing that Andy hasn't taken into account, with his grand plan is that the orioles like melvin and brian are completely mentality fatigued with all this losing".

You mean 9 and 10 million/year respectively to Mora and Roberts are not enough reasons to play 100%? Should Andy's plan include an inclusive vacation to some private island in Bermuda, deep tissue massages, unlimited frozen drinks, big screen TVs playing Yankees greatest games 24/7 ? Would that help with the fatigue that comes from losing?

Well not to worry anymore about the high prices, Sarasota is not that way. Of course until you go down there. I am sure the callers and bar tenders that once sold you four dollar waters and have given the best of the best in Sarasota a full scouting report on you. Hope you are getting along on the crutches. I am sure it is painful.

Slugger, no need to apologise for nitpickin my posts. I use to think that money and pride was all the reason in the world to come to the park and play hard everyday, but not anymore.If you can't see the look on the yankee's compared to the oriole players then we are all missing something.When you don't have any hope it's very tough to perform at a high level.

What I like about this move is that it basically sums up this regime's position that symbols matter. They send messages to fans and players. So much of the org's gesture's of the last decade has sent out negative messages that we and players were just supposed to ignore or dismiss. I think this might be the player's version of returning "Baltimore" on the road jerseys.

I bet years from now we'll hear about Os players nostalgically reminiscing about Ft. Lauderdale's "ghetto" conditions.

Peter,

Are you going to tell us about the Florida hotel story? You know, when you and Rocco saw Amber Theoharris naked in her hotel room.

:-)

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Pete's reply: Stop it.

I believe everyone is nitpicking too much. Look at the positives this year. Even tough Hill and Berken have not had much success this is better than watching Eaton or Traschell on the downslide of their careers. You have Wieters, Reimold, Izturis, Bergessen, Koji, Berken, Hill, Zaun, Hernamdez, Andino, Hendrickson, Merideth, Wigginton and yes even Pie that are new to this team. That is 14 new players this year. That is called rebuilding. Add the fact that Jones, Sherrill, Albers, Bass, Scott and Safarte (injured) That is 20 players that are new to the club since the start of 2007. Not bad it is what it is. REBUILDING!

I think You and Roch would have made old Hunter Thompson proud with these precious tales

But im with the other guy, enough of Roch and Petes Excellent Adventures and tell
us what Ambers doin down there!

Ft Lauderdale changed years back when they voted to boot out the Spring Breakers! It used to be GREAT but then it got OLD....Still good to visit but no longer the real deal....kinda like the birds.

Sarasota is artsy fartsy but better than Lauderdale. Maybe you and Roch can stroll through a few art galleries together?:) Just dont let him wear his spandex to the beach....hehehhe
For a good beach, cruise up to Clearwater....Then check out the Phillies facility, first class.

Good column Pete.

Cb coach,

Everyone sees the positives and potential. I think what would help with fans expectations rather than throw us a bone to chew on in form of a prospect or two every other month, is to come out and put a time table on this thing. Don't tell me a year or two. Come out and tell me exactly when we are going to make the playoffs. Guaranty me that you believe in your plan so much, that you will put your reputation on the line and boldly predict when you will win the division. I know that no one can 100% guaranty you the future, but MacPhail and Angelos should come out and tell me as a fan: We will suck until 2012, but we expect no less than making the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Is that too much to ask?

Pete,

As a Tampa O's fan, and there's plenty of us, I'm beyond thrilled to have them in Sarasota. The Sarasota card room is very nice, I'm sure you'll have fun killing time there next spring.

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Pete's reply: That's good to know.

Pete -

Good stories. We all like to live vicariously through you and Roch. (note, our social lives are about as rewarding as the O's baserunning..)

Just about 1 week to go....what are you hearing on possible trades involving our 30+ year old players?


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Pete's reply: I think they will get something good for Sherrill, but I'll have to grill Jeff today on specifics. For logistical reasons, I'm not as much in the loop right now.

Wathching the Tides game... Tillman 4 runs in 3.2 innings, 4 walks

"Baltimore is 32-28 when it hits at least one home run"

Interesting.....that means....we better trade for Adam Dunn before the deadline! With his homeruns we would be at least 20games above .500!!

Slugger,

You cannot bring them all up at the same time. There is no upside for the future by doing that. I think the goal was pretty well explained before. We are better or equal in almost every position than two years ago. We have more top prospects than before.
I think that the team has done a great job of handling the young players coming up. There will be more, in fact one in the next few days. So it will be interesting.

Blancione,

I totally agree that the losing has sapped some of the veterans' motivation/interest.
However, I don't necessarily think that reflects a lack of confidence in Andy McPhail's rebuilding plan.
(see recent comments by George Sherrill)

The O's actually had a PR guy named "Rick Vaughn"?

The question is could the guy pitch?


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Pete's reply: Well, actually, yes. He was a good college pitcher, before getting into PR and is one of the premier PR guys in pro sports. Now with the Rays.

Pete: You will love Sarasota.Siesta Key Beach is the best you'll ever go to.South Beach doesen't even compare to it.Sarasota is one a the nicest places in the entire state.I can't wait until next year.

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Pete's reply: Actually, I stayed in a condo on the beach at Siesta Key for two springs in the 1990s. The powdery white sand is spectacular.

Pete,
Going off topic and sorry if you have commented on this before and I missed it. Much is being said about the orioles and making basic mistakes such as baserunning and throwing mistakes. Some of the comments I have heard have said they are pro's they should know what to do. I was wondering how much time does the club spend on these things? If you look at other spots such as football and basketball fundamentals are a part of practice whether it is footwork for lineman or drops for the secondary. Just curious what your take is on this.

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Pete's reply: They worked on baserunning quite a bit in spring, but most of the mistakes are more mental than practice related. Sometimes, I think it's a lack of focus on team baseball. When you get thrown out trying to stretch a single with one out and a runner on third in the eighth inning of a tie game (Wigginton), that's a time when he wasn't thinking about the big picture. To some extent, that has to be on the manager to correct, though I don't know how you do that.

Pretty much every woman in my life never understands how my friends and I can get in an arguement but then be over it by the next day. They think its a guy thing.

And apparently it is.

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Pete's reply: Maybe so, but I know a lot of guys who are grudge holders and a lot of friends who will let a political disagreement become personal, which I think is sad.

went to Ft Liqourdale for my bachelor party and the Ravens game in '07. Great time, crappy game.

~~is to come out and put a time table on this thing. Don't tell me a year or two. Come out and tell me exactly when we are going to make the playoffs. Guaranty me that you believe in your plan so much, that you will put your reputation on the line and boldly predict when you will win the division. I know that no one can 100% guaranty you the future, but MacPhail and Angelos should come out and tell me as a fan: We will suck until 2012, but we expect no less than making the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Is that too much to ask?~~

LOL what a joke. They "should" do that? Actually they should NOT do that because it would prove they are idiots who have no clue how to do their job. Fans like Jack and Brummie speak in guarantees and absolutes and cosmic certainties and crystal ball predictions, not professional front office personnel. At some point I would think fans would get over themselves and realize they do not own the team. You dont get to declare what the team "should" do. You can whine, opine, complain, abstain, blog, blow fog, philosophize, rationalize, pontificate, bloviate, and that is all about being a fan. But you do not get to dictate. Your vote doesnt count. So yes, your request that they commit professional suicide is way too much to ask IMO.

There are good times ahead for the Orioles and Sarasota one can hope. I will see you there.

Schmuckers,
Don't forget the one about the condo, the bathtub and the camera!!! Ooops!!! I wasn't there but it's a kickass tale.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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