Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting Autographs from Prospects at Spring Training

Melky Cabrera signed baseball from Spring Training 2006

One of my favorite things about going to spring training is to check out the up-and-coming players, watch them develop and then see them as starting players a few years later.  I love to meet these guys before they really hit the big time, when they are fighting for their spot on the roster, when they put in some of the best effort to show off their raw talent.

Back in 2006, I was watching a young Yankee prospect, Melky Cabrera.  I had seen him make a brief appearance in the MLB the previous season, with little success.  In spring training, he seemed to have his stuff together, and was fun and interesting to watch.  I wanted to meet him.

What was interesting was that I was staying at the Tampa Bay Days Inn, a few blocks away from Legends Field (where the Yankees practice, now known as Steinbrenner Field).  So was Cabrera, along with several other Yankee prospects.  In fact, I would see him practically every day, leaving for the park and returning back to the hotel.  At night, fellow Yankee Robinson Cano would swing by, pick him up and head out to dinner.

I began to see Cabrera and company frequently, so it got to the point where I would wave hello to them.  They would wave back.  After a few days, I flat out approached them and requested autographs.

While I didn’t get a chance to really speak with any of them, it was really interesting to see how hard Cabrera and the other Yankee prospects worked.  They were up and out at around 7 am, and returned over an hour after the game.   Pretty grueling day, especially when you factor in the physical drills, performance during a game against other professional athletes, all while trying to win a coveted spot on the Yankee roster.  Yet still they took the time to sign for a fan.  Pretty cool.

The moral of the story is that prospects often are put up at the small, local hotels.  So, if you choose to stay there as well, you just might get an opportunity to know them a bit better.  Just be respectful.  Keep in mind they are on a six week job interview!

These days, I don’t get to see Cabrera play as often as I used to, since he has bounced to the Atlanta Braves and then to the KC Royals (I live in a NY market, so I don’t catch those games as often).  But when he is in town, I still feel the connection from that day at spring training – and that makes me a fan.


  1. Great story Pete, how great would it have been to get the young unknown jeter to sign before he became's cool to whiteness these players humble you said it builds a connection you will have with that player for his whole career.

  2. Jeff - Too bad I wasn't going to spring training or meeting players back then. But right now, among the players at all the training camps throughout MLB, are the up-and-coming superstars just waiting to be discovered by both management and fans.