By Shannon Drayer
PEORIA, Ariz. – Greetings from Peoria, Ariz., where it was hardly business as usual for me Tuesday morning. Thirteen spring trainings in, and now a twist. New faces, players and coaches and a new facility had me feeling like I took a wrong turn and ended up perhaps in Mesa. Thankfully, Felix Hernandez walked in to remind me that this wasn't the Cubs' complex.
It is very different, however, and I can't help but wonder if this will have a positive effect on the team. Last week on "The Hot Stove League Show", Michael Saunders said he kept getting lost in the new clubhouse. Small wonder. The new spring clubhouse is as big or bigger than any visiting clubhouse in any park I have seen.
The renovations here were massive. Top-notch facilities and equipment. Full-sized permanent lockers and sofas in the clubhouse. A full dining facility instead of meal service consisting of the small room with three tables, a microwave, soup and cereal stations with daily lunch catering set up in the clubhouse. A beautiful indoor/outdoor weight room and a large video room with space for multiple players and coaches to do work. Hardly familiar, but shiny and new.
Of course, there are no ghosts of springs past here, which is something I miss but no doubt is good for this young group of players who will fight for their own identity. The locker that Ken Griffey Jr. once occupied is no longer there. The space where Edgar Martinez kept his bat scale is a memory. "Survivor Island" – the row of temporary lockers in the middle of the clubhouse where the the longshots to make the final 25-man roster were set up – is now gone. The prized end locker that veterans like Jamie Moyer and J.J. Putz once occupied is no longer there.
The first occupant of the new prized end-of-the-clubhouse corner locker is Robinson Cano. Hernandez occupies the two lockers nearest to the entrance while Cano – tucked away in the corner with his cousin, Burt Reynolds, lockering next to him – is a bit tougher to approach. Different.
Fernando Rodney is here and hard to miss. Occasionally he would break out in song – loudly – which seemed to be appreciated by most teammates. It was hardly a sleepy spring clubhouse Tuesday morning. Different year, different sound, different feel.
Some of the sights were familiar, however, like guys at their lockers opening boxes of new shoes for the season. Plenty of shoe discussions this morning, which is typical for early spring. There was still plenty of catching up as well as iPhones were passed around with pictures of new babies, hunting trips and in Hernandez's case a European vacation.
Now they get to work and will fall into the routine of the new business as usual. Manager Lloyd McClendon will take them on the field for the first workout but he will not gather them for a speech. That has been done already in small groups. It is now about the work and we will soon see what that looks like.
I hear there is music during workouts. Different.