Thursday, March 3, 2011
Posted: 10:26 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
GLENDALE, Ariz. In case you havent been getting the gist of my spring training writing so far, the Cactus League is pretty much a paradise for baseball fans.
After all, where else can you find yourself watching major league players in an atmosphere not unlike a local high school game.
Thats just where I found myself on Thursday, watching the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers face off in a game that brought me back to my own days spitting sunflower seeds and itching to see action at third, short, catcher, outfield, wherever. Only my stroll down memory lane was accompanied by manager Ozzie Guillen, who in all likelihood would be any baseball fans choice for Person Theyd Most Want to Watch a Game With.
For all his animation, and the fact that Ozzie could talk to a batboy for an hour and turn it into ace reality TV, the truth is that the White Sox manager truly cares about and attends to the game. Its the flamboyance that gets the play, but Ozzie is a true caretaker of the game.
Not to say there werent moments of jest. Guillen was immediately impressed by the bat and arm of rightfielder Kyle Russell. His impression came in the form of chiding Russell for wearing a helmet with Little League-style double ear flaps: Hey, No. 14, youve got a big-league number, tell Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to give you a major league helmet! (Then, under his breath, that kid is impressive I like that kid.)
Natch, Guillen had words for the umpiring crew the second a pitch call went against him: Hey, were filming you! And Ozzie couldnt help but laugh at the fact that while the Dodgers had several interns spread around the field, using high-tech equipment to track every pitch of the game, the White Sox had just one photographer, using such a veteran camera that the manager was unsure whether the camera model was still in production. (The discrepancy was so hilarious, even recalcitrant first-base coach Harold Baines got into the fray.)
Later, when a Dodgers extra busted hard right at us on a foul popup, crashing into the fence to no avail, Guillen was quick to compliment him: Good hustle, kid. Tommy Lasorda will love you! And even when Dallas McPherson was thrown out at home plate, Ozzie wasnt worried about the play, but the fact that no one moved the bat out of McPhersons way, paving the way to injury.
And yeah, theres was a lot we talked about that was meant to stay outside the lines, but let me trickle one thing for you to look for. Ozzie has a plan for the Cleveland Indians after the National Anthem on Opening Day, something that could earn him cheers but, knowing how much the Wahoos fans detest the Chisox jefe, will get boos galore. Today, Ozzie wasnt sure if hed go through with it, but if he does, it will be an all-time classic.
Just like the manager himself.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.