"Go to the back fields." That’s a line usually included in standard lists of what to do at Spring Training. It’s always been good advice, because you see players and coaches working on the details of the game that we fans obsess over after the fact, but maybe don’t appreciate in terms of the preparation.
I went to the back fields yesterday because it was an "off day," a complete misnomer. Dozens of Rockies players were hard at work, taking batting practice, running bases, pitching in the bullpens. Players were scattered all over the back fields, and the thwack of bats hitting baseballs was constant.
The sounds died down around noon, as players left the fields to eat lunch and get ready for the afternoon games: the Rockies’ AA team would face their counterparts from San Francisco on Practice Field 3, and the AAA teams would square off on Practice Field 4. Joining the latter would be Tyler Chatwood.
It’s a little strange to see big-league players, and players on the cusp, trot out to a field surrounded by a chain link fence, with little bleachers that wouldn’t accommodate the parents of a tee-ball team. But even without its major league (or minor league) trappings, the game remained the same. Chatwood worked low in the zone, and the Giants’ minor leaguers were overmatched. He went six innings under the eye of pitching coach Jim Wright, who darted back and forth from the dugout to behind home plate, where Walt Weiss and Bill Geivett looked on from a golf cart.
Behind my back on Practice Field 4, Jon Gray started the game for the Rockies' AA team. He's imposing on the mound, but he didn't have as good an afternoon as Chatwood. The Giants' AA team wasn't in a pitch-taking mood, so they swung aggressively at Gray's offerings. His work was finished quicker than Chatwood, but if his outing bothered him, he didn't show it. Gray took time to chat with some fans and sign autographs, then ambled back to the clubhouse.
Keeping track of two games going at the same time, and neither with scoreboards, isn't easy. Turning back and forth on my sunburned chicken legs probably made me look like a weather vane in a thunderstorm. But that's a small price to pay for seeing Chatwood and Gray pitching at the same time, and in the same place. Not a bad way to spend an off day.