After two days of constant rain and overcast, I was delighted to see a backdrop of blue skies to scattered clouds as I made my first trip to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. With a moderate temperature in the low 70's, warm sunshine, and occasional breeze, today was a morale boost for avid baseball fans. All scheduled games were completed in the Grapefruit League for the first time since Wednesday.
The Yanks played two split squads stoday, one at home, and the other on the road visiting the Detroit Tigers and former Yankee, Johnny Damon. Damon had a career year with the Yankees in 2009 belting 24 home runs and a crucial double steal in Game 4 of the World Series en route to capturing the Championship Title. Today, Damon greeted his former club with a hello that included an RBI single and waved farewell from the bases after a solo home run. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher were the notable position players facing Detroit. However this group of star talent, with aid from others, could only muster 2 runs, falling to the Tigers 6-2.
I attended the Yankees home game where they hosted the Division rival Baltimore Orioles. Javier Vazquez took the ball for the Yankees and together with Alfredo Aceves, surrendered a total of 3 runs to the O's. After Royce Ring pitched an inning of relief, young gun, David Robertson closed the game.
Both teams did all of their scoring early, as the 4th inning was the last to see any runs posted by either club. The Yankees had a 3-run rally in the bottom of the first inning and would later score a run in the 2nd and 4th innings. The Yankees offense for this game was composed by Nick Johnson, Robinson Cano, Juan Miranda, and Jorge Posada. Ramiro Pena went 0 for 3 with a walk after he caught a pitch on his left foot. However the numbers are misleading. Although striking out once, the two balls Pena put into play were both line drives directly at fielders. Pena's off-day on offense fueled his defense. He put into motion a double play that was reminiscent of Jeter during his career in the late 90's. After the play, as well as other defensive highlights for the young Shortstop, he exited the field back to the dugout to chants of his name, and flattering chants of "Jeter Jr.!!!".
Pena's record, skill, and demeanor only cement my initial comments I made when he debuted last year with the Yankees during the period A-Rod was recovering from hip surgery. If the Yankees hold onto this kid, he could join the ranks of Jeter, Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera as homegrown super-star Yankees. Everyone on the list, with the exception of Pena, has made a case to be enshrined in Yankee history. Pena is far from this future, but after seeing him perform for almost a year, he is certainly stirring the conversation.
I cannot close this article without mentioning the perfection that is Steinbrenner Field also affectionately called Legends Field. A grand stadium disguised as a quaint field, it is serves as the younger brother to the grand ol' girl that is Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Legends Field hosts 10,000 guests and backs up to a plot of land meant to preserve the area's landscape and wildlife complete with fountains and wandering turtles below arched walkway to the field entrances. After having visited the wondrous ballpark and learning of their low ticket prices starting at $12 and maxing out at $30, I intend on taking another trip to Tampa before Spring Training concludes.