|ESPN.com: Spring 2004||[Print without images]|
He has dodged alligators in exotic Plant City, Fla. He has zig-zagged through the cacti in Tucson. He has hung out with Mickey, Pluto and Chipper Jones in Disney World. You name the Florida or Arizona metropolis, Reggie Sanders has trained there. Go ahead. We dare you. He's a St. Louis Cardinal now. You might have missed that. Which means he's no longer a Pirate, Giant, Diamondback, Brave, Padre or Red. You might have missed that, too. That also means he will now be employed by his seventh team in seven years, all in the same league (National), all without ever changing teams once in midseason. That's a distinguished place in history topped by only one player who ever played -- the well-traveled Shorty (Rent, Don't Buy) Radford, who toiled for eight teams in eight years from 1885 to 1892, while never playing for more than one club a year. Ah, but nobody -- not even Shorty -- can top Reggie Sanders' place in spring-training history (if only because we're pretty sure no one had stopped shoveling snow long enough to invent spring training back in Radford's day). Sanders' current spring address, in beautiful downtown Jupiter, Fla., is his eighth different spring-training site in eight years. And yeah, we did the math on this.
Not only did he get to chill in Bradenton with the Pirates, Scottsdale with the Giants, Tucson with the D-Backs, Lake Buena Vista with the Braves, Peoria with the Padres and Sarasota with the Reds, but ... He also got a bonus site -- since the Reds finally figured out a way to escape Plant City in his final season with Cincinnati. He's still celebrating that escape, by the way. As with everything in life, Reggie Sanders says there's a good side and a bad side to his eternal orbit of the spring-training universe. The good side, he said cheerfully, is that "you really get a chance to see how different organizations work." How many different ways are there to practice those cutoffs and relays at 9 a.m.? Reggie Sanders now knows them all. And the bad side? Hey, that's easy. You get lost a lot. Heck, that first day of camp, EVERY SINGLE FREAKING YEAR, you don't even know how to get into the stadium. But after eight years of this drill, Sanders has the answer to that predicament figured out, too.
"I just stay in the car," he laughed. "I wait till somebody else goes in. Then I go in." Yes, he has seen the best of spring training. And he has seen the worst of spring training. So since the Travel Channel hasn't called yet, we talked him into telling all to ESPN.com. All about spring training, that is. So here it comes, friends, ready or not -- Reggie Sanders' Totally Exclusive Guide to Spring Training Sites around the baseball globe: BEST BALLPARK: "Disney. It's like a mini-version of a major-league stadium." WORST BALLPARK: "Plant City. Aw, the field was OK. Just, there was nothing to do in Plant City." (Pay attention now. There may be a recurrent theme here.) BEST RESTAURANTS: "Disney. You had that Adventure Island. Lot of choices." WORST RESTAURANTS: "Plant City. The only thing I enjoyed was getting some fried catfish. I must have eaten catfish at least three times a week." BEST SINGLE RESTAURANT: "Sushi 10 in Tucson. I love eating sushi in spring training." MOST MEALS, ONE RESTAURANT (OR CHAIN): "Cracker Barrel. I ate a LOTTTTTT of breakfasts at Cracker Barrel." BEST VIEW FROM SPRING TRAINING CONDO: "Tucson. I could look out at the mountains and the desert. Beautiful." WORST VIEW FROM SPRING TRAINING CONDO: "Plant City. My only view was I-4." (Well, it was either that or a bunch of strawberry plants.) BEST TRAFFIC/COMMUTE: "Jupiter. I live on the golf course, right up the road." WORST TRAFFIC/COMMUTE: "Sarasota, because I lived at home, in Tampa, and drove it every day. There were a lot of trucks out there, and I got behind every one of them. And there was always construction." BEST GOLF AFTER WORKOUTS: "Scottsdale. Of course. Can't beat that." WORST GOLF AFTER WORKOUTS: "Plant City. You can't even play." BEST BALLPARK HITTING BACKGROUND: "Disney. They had a big wall in center. You could really see the ball well." WORST BALLPARK HITTING BACKGROUND: "Bradenton. They had no background. There was nothing there. So the ball came right out of the sun. If I had bad spring numbers there, that's the reason." SHORTEST WORKOUTS: "Braves. Disney. As long as you got your work in, you could get out of there [by noon]." LONGEST WORKOUTS: "Probably the Pirates. Bradenton. Lloyd [McClendon] had some long ones." Asked if the Pirates get a lot of twilight golf rates thanks to those workouts, Sanders chuckled, "You do, as a matter of fact." BEST DESCRIPTION OF THE WEATHER IN ARIZONA: "Consistency." BEST DESCRIPTION OF THE WEATHER IN FLORIDA: "Humidity." PLACE HE WISHED HE COULD HAVE BOUGHT A CONDO IF HE'D KNOWN HE WOULD HAVE BEEN THERE MORE THAN A YEAR: "Jupiter. Right here. I hope this is it." (He does, in fact, have a two-year contract -- but no no-trade clause.) PLACE HE'S GRATEFUL HE NEVER BOUGHT A CONDO, EVEN IF HE'D KNOWN HE'D TRAIN THERE 10 YEARS: "Plant City, because you can't get your money back." WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN PLANT CITY: "Probably getting the opportunity to play with Schottzie 02." (Yeah, he really said that.) WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN SARASOTA: "Windy. Very windy. But a good tepinyaki restaurant." WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN PEORIA: "My first spring training in Arizona. Loved it. There's just something about the sand and the mountains together." WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN DISNEY: "The amusement park, man -- and my kids loving it." WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN TUCSON: "Going to play golf with Steve Finley a lot. Uh-oh. I guess I should be talking about baseball, huh?" WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN SCOTTSDALE: "My all-time favorite place. I actually live there now." WHAT HE REMEMBERS ABOUT SPRING IN BRADENTON: "It reminded me of a retiree place." HIS IMPRESSION OF SPRING IN JUPITER: "I have a feeling this will be a good place for me. Jupiter is the beginning of a two-year journey. I like the sound of that." And after all those one-year cameo appearances in all those Plant Citys and Bradentons, this is a man who deserves a two-year journey -- even more than another $4.49 breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.