Bunting can be fun. But the flu? Not so much.
One thing I’ve learned about ballplayers over the years is that they take competitiveness to an entirely different level, no matter what they’re doing. Of course, they’re ultra competitive when they’re on the field playing baseball, but that fierceness spills over to other parts of their life, and often, no matter what they’re doing, they’re doing it to win.
Take the annual bunting competition among pitchers, for example. In a nutshell, the grass in front of the plate is sectioned off by points, and the goal is to have the ball stop in the boxes labeled one, two and three. Other boxes are labeled minus one, minus two and minus three — those are the boxes too close to the plate and too close to the mound.
The finals were Monday, and Doug Brocail won the whole thing, despite receiving an earful from Tim Byrdak, who stood behind the cage and attempted to rattle his teammates.
“It’s a good thing Milo showed up,” Byrdak said, referring to the Astros’ 81-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster, Milo Hamilton. “Now Brocail is the second oldest guy in camp.”
To bunting-challenged Chad Paronto, Byrdak said simply, “I want to rip my eyes out. This is horrible.”
A Major League clubhouse is useful for many reasons, but unfortunately, it also can be a launching pad for germs. When one person gets sick, they all get sick, as appears to be the case this week in Astros camp. This time, it’s a stomach flu that is going around, and for those of you that have had that particular virus, you know it’s awful. Brandon Backe came in this morning feeling like he lost 10 pounds over the last 35 hours, and Edwin Maysonet had a similar bout with the illness as well. I just heard the Diamondbacks had 11 players and coaches out with the stomach flu at the same time, so maybe the Astros should consider themselves lucky.
One of my favorite baseball analysts in Tim Kurkjian from ESPN, and it was great to see him today at Astros camp. He’s floating around the Spring Training sites and hopes to get to all 30 teams in the next couple of weeks. He was nice enough to not only not be offended when I laughed at his outfit today, but he also let me take a picture. This is what broadcasters often look like when they go on camera — tie and sport coat — and shorts (out of shot, of course).
I think my favorite quote of the day came from Darin Erstad, who is as understated and humble as they come but is really funny, even when he’s not trying to be. He was amused when a couple of us reporter types rushed over to talk to him about the ground ball that bounced off his cheekbone yesterday, forcing him to have a precautionary x-ray taken, just to be sure nothing was wrong.
Erstad thought nothing of the mishap when it first happened and continued on with the workout, but later, he sensed something may be not quite right.
“I went to blow my nose last night and I said ‘Uh, I better check this out,” he said.