The first spring training game of 2010 is also my first spring training game of any sort. I have never before watched a spring training game because, you know, they don't count. Then again, I've never been a full-time contributing member of a Yankee blog before, either. One has encouraged the other.
Here are a few random thoughts that jumped out at me throughout the course of the game:
-YES is taking this seriously. The music is the same. The opening credits are the same. The only evidence that the game doesn't count are the few shots the network threw out of goofy postcards from Florida, which was even funnier because the weather in Tampa was clearly horrible.
-The Yankees are also taking this seriously. The team opened the game with a live performance of the National Anthem and a flyover. That gave me goose bumps! T-minus 32 days to games that count.
-Steinbrenner Field looks deceptively like the actual Yankee Stadium when YES is showing the seats behind home plate. The colors are the same. The ads are similar. It's even 314 feet to right. If the Yankees are trying to elicit a conditioned response of excitement for baseball from me it's working.
-The Yankees are wearing their normal home uniforms. I didn't expect that. What a tease.
-Players come in and out of a spring training game quickly. One minute you're watching Alex Rodriguez, the next it's some guy you've never heard of. Only the pitchers are a string of familiar faces. Some of these position players may actually just be random people from the Tampa area.
-Except, Michael Kay and Ken Singleton know each of these guys, on both teams. That's impressive. Even with a list of names and numbers I'd sound like Bob Uecker from Major League calling a game like this. Then again, Kay and Singleton could be making names up and I'd be none the wiser.
-Finally, there are a lot of errors in a spring training game. Yuck. I'll spare our readers the worst of the play-by-play, but let's just say that if you want to watch a lot of bouncers going under gloves and overthrows on defense then spring training is for you.
The game did not feature a lot of offensive fireworks. Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves all looked sharp, which would bolster their claims on the fifth rotation spot, except Ken Singleton explained that pitchers have a strong advantage over batters coming into Spring Training.
The game was the first competitive pinstripe appearances by Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson. Grandy didn't do much from the 2nd spot in the lineup. The Pirates started the game with a lefty on the mound, which led Ken Singleton to pick apart every mistake Curtis made in his one at-bat against the guy.
Nick Johnson, on the other hand, smoked a double over the right fielder's glove (Editor's Note: Hell yeah!). He then proceeded to look like he was made of glass as he ran the bases. Beautiful stroke, wonderful addition to the team, but every time Johnson moves I feel like I'm going to have a heart attack. Can we have an automatic pinch runner for him the way the Braves did for Babe Ruth in his last season?
Ramiro Pena had one of the two big hits of the game. He put one in orbit to dead center. He looked a little disappointed in the dugout once he realized this meant he probably wouldn't hit another homer until 2012.
All cynicism and sarcasm aside, the game ended brilliantly. Colin Curtis won it in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off three-run homer. After a season of walk-offs in 2009 there wasn't a better way to begin the prelude to the 2010 title defense.