Florida Marlins Camp
Jupiter, FL
Mets at Marlins - March 25, 2004 (1:00 PM)
Dodgers at Astros - March 25, 2004 (7:00 PM)

With just four games remaining, Dan, the Lizard and I headed south once again, this time to Marlins camp in Jupiter. Roger Dean Stadium is a nice park, but reminded us a little of what we found last year in Arizona in that there was nothing particularly unique or exciting about it. One exception was the gift shop, which was huge and packed with all kinds of interesting merchandise. I of course stuck with my customary key chain,
which will take its place on the map on my office wall along with the others.

The Marlins had some excitement before today's game, as they received a visit from Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. The southpaw has been visiting various camps this spring and it was the World Champions who benefited from his wisdom this time around. We didn't see him, but I overheard one kid calling somebody on his cell, excited that he had managed to get an autograph from the Dodger legend.

Why is it that no matter where we go, we cannot get away from Rangers two-time cast off Darren Oliver? We suffered through him in Arizona last year with the Rockies and saw him again today. I guess spending some time with Koufax paid off, though, as Oliver scattered just five hits, striking out seven and walking none. He certainly didn't look like we remembered him.

The Mets played the Marlins to a 1-1 tie in 11 innings.on this particular afternoon, after which they agreed to head for the golf course. We grabbed some photos and headed for the Tahoe just as a nice afternoon shower hit. The rain passed quickly and we made our way back to Kissimmee, where we would find one of the most anticipated games of the trip, the Dodgers at the Astros.

As it turned out, I had to make my daily radio report while we were driving. I've called in a couple of times from the car, but this was the first time the other guys were in there with me. I have no idea how I managed to do that report without laughing while Dan and the Lizard were cutting up. The radio reports have been fun, and I appreciate all the good feedback from those of you who are enjoying them.

Osceola County Stadium had been remodeled since our 2002 visit, but it remains a favorite. Additions included a modernized press box, new clubhouses, and even a few luxury suites. When I saw the changes, I was concerned that player accessibility for fans might have been affected, but the bullpens are still right next to the front row of seating and there are areas situated along the way to the clubhouses where kids can wait to talk to players and ask for autographs. So the updated Osceola County Stadium gets good marks from our group.

The media notes announced a trade completed by Houston earlier that afternoon for former Ranger Mike Lamb. Lamb, who has always shown promise with the stick, certainly knows how to make a good first impression.

Just a few hours after the trade from the New York Yankees, Lamb doubled in his first at-bat with Houston and made a good fielding play on his first chance at third base, helping the his new team beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-2.

Lamb had been competing for the Yankees third base job until New York traded for Alex Rodriguez.

Lamb doubled to right field in the second inning off Kazuhisa Ishii. Brad Ausmus followed with an RBI single and Craig Biggio hit a two-run single before he was thrown out trying to reach second base, giving the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Lamb knocked down a grounder by Ishii in the second inning and caught him at first.

"It was certainly a good first at-bat and he made a couple of nice plays for us in the field," manager Jimy Williams said. "It had to make him feel good and it makes us feel good too, especially in this game."

The Astros were in midseason form already, pitching well and generating a lot of offense. Of course, most of the talk this spring has centered on the addition of Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens, and rightfully so. By adding two such quality pitchers, the Houston are on the level of last year's Central champ the Chicago Cubs, who added Greg Maddux to their already strong starting pitching. I had the opportunity to discuss these acquisitions with several players following the victory, and even though they have already been answering questions about the two new pitchers for several weeks, the responses were very enthusiastic.

"Obviously our pitching additions, we needed really bad to get somebody like Pettite, and when we got Clemens it was gravy. I mean, we are getting one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball, and we're getting a guy in Andy Pettite who has more World Series experience than just about anybody out there, so it took our starting rotation from where they were last year to a front line rotation for this year," said third-year reliever Brad Lidge.

Multi-position All Star Craig Biggio agreed. "Roger and Andy bring experience to our team, with the caliber of pitchers they are, and we are excited about it. Every time they go out there, we have a good chance to win."

I also asked him what would give the Astros an edge over the Cubs.

"Health always plays a big part in our division because we don't have the resources to go out and get other players, so health will be a big factor in who wins the division," Biggio added.

1. What's in your CD player?
2. Who plays you in a movie?
3. Favorite movie?
4. Favorite TV program?
5. Which "Simpsons" character is you?
6. Favorite dinner?

Brad Lidge RHP
1. "Probably some Linkin Park."
2. "Let's see, Ben Affleck maybe, that would be a guy I'd like to play me. He seems like he could be a good athlete, so he could play a baseball player."
3. "Braveheart is right up there, Gladiator, and Shawshank Redemption, that's a fantastic movie."
4. N/A
5. "Oh man, maybe Krusty the Clown!"
6. "Spaghetti and Meatballs."

Craig Biggio CF
1. "It's a rent-a-truck, so I don't have anything right now. But I'd say probably U2 or some country or something like that.
2. "Kevin Bacon."
3. "Slap Shot was one of my all-time favorites and The Longest Yard, we're gonna go back a ways, but I always liked those movies."
4. "I don't have one. It's whatever my kids are watching. I don't
really watch TV other than late at night, no it's probably Friends or Seinfeld."
5. "I'm familiar with the show, but I don't watch it."
6. "The one I'm having right now, eggplant."

Lance Berkman OF
1. "I haven't been in my car in a while, but it's usually a Christian CD, you know or, Willie Nelson or something like that."
2. "That's tough, I don't know. My favorite actor is Robert Duvall, but he's a little old to be playing me."
3. "Lonesome Dove"
4. N/A
5. "Probably Bart."
6. "Prime Rib's hard to beat, probably some good prime rib."

Dave Veres RHP
1. "Right now, nothing, 'cuz I have a rent-a-truck. But in my regular car, I just got satellite radio and it's unbelievable. I mean, I drove from Denver to here and never played one CD. I mean, commercial free country, or whatever you want, I mean, and hundred and something channels of music. I highly recommend it."
2. "I've been told I look like Tommy Lee Jones, a little like Pierce
Brosnan. For some reason, whenever it's someone who looks like you, it's always someone famous or rich, it's never the ugly guys you resemble." (I mentioned that Ty Cobb had already played Ty Cobb, so that was some baseball acting experience.) "Well, my son's name is Ty, in fact, he's named after Ty Cobb, so I'll say Tommy Lee Jones."
3. "If you ask my wife, probably Tommy Boy. My first year in Houston, the first time, that's when it first came out, my roommate was Mike Hampton, Jim Daughtery was on the team, and we probably watched it every road trip, so I have to say Tommy Boy."
4. N/A
5. "it's funny you ask that because I used to love that show. In fact, I loved it so much, that's all I ever got for birthdays and Christmas, you know, towels, hats, I mean, everything was Bart Simpson up until about '93. Then I outgrew the Simpsons a little bit." (At this point I said, "No you didn't!") "Ok, you're right, I didn't," he continued. "I still watch it. I'm just not as die-hard as I used to be. I think my wife got mad when our entire bedroom set was Bart Simpson, or Bartman or something." ("So, which one is you," I asked.) "It's got to be Bart, I mean, I say 'Dude' and everything. Hopefully it's Bart and not Barney, the town drunk."
6. "Probably Mexican. Steak's getting there. I probably enjoy some steak now. But I always like Mexican food, and in Houston there's Pappasitos, that place is unbelievable."

Dave Veres moved into first place for favorite interview on this trip
with those answers. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to these players, and it was probably the highlight of the trip for me.

[Follow-up note: We found out later the next day that the interview with OOB was the last action of Dave Veres as an Astro. He was unceremoniously cut the next morning. Here's hoping the word doesn't get out what happens when you interview with OOB before next spring!]


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Houston Astros Camp
Kissimmee, FL
Roger Dean Stadium, shared spring home of the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
The festive, open concourse at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.
The "Origin of Baseball" display at Roger Dean Stadium.
A look at theh field at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.
Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL.
For some reason, no matter where we go on our Spring Training trip, we end up seeing Darren Oliver pitch.  This year was no exception!
"Blue" takes in the sights."
The Lizard needs "a closer look" as well.
Roger Dean Stadium.
Blue and the Lizard enjoy another great spring game.
The Lizard and Blue by the Marlins logo.
The Lizard and yours truly by the Marlins logo.
The players exit from Osceola County Stadium.  This was the area where the OOB interview sessions took place.
Yours truly and the Lizard ourside Osceola County Stadium.