Trip to Boss Heaven for Pettitte hell
The trip across the causeway this morning from the the condo occupied by Team Star in Clearwater was not nearly as exciting as the one going the other way last Monday upon landing in Florida. Today, I was headed for Steinbrenner Field, the little bit of Boss heaven formerly known as Legends Field. A steaming hot cup of gas station coffee and a Granny Smith apple was my breakfast on the go. The windows were rolled down, the traffic was light on Presidents Day (apparently their equivalent of Family Day) and I had Navajo and the Freak Show cranked up on WILD-FM the local hip-hop station. Oh for a pair of Apple Bottom jeans and boots with the fur.
Arrived in the press box to find no seats available to set up shop. But like LaDainian, I don't need much daylight before I make my move. There was a small sliver of countertop in the third row between two Japanese journalists. I kept my feet moving, tucked my laptop under my arm and headed for the open formica. It's not really as much of a victory as it sounds, because ever since the arrival of the first wave of Japanese media with outfielder Hideki Matsui (the earlier Japanese players didn't draw as much interest) the Yankee PR staff has created a third and fourth row for the Asian overflow. The catch is that both these rows are behind the elevated press box seats, meaning you can't see the field. It makes covering Grapefruit League games especially difficult.
At 9:30 a.m. a throng of writers, radio and TV folks headed for the Yankee clubhouse to hang out and talk to each other -- and an occasional Yankee getting dressed for the 10:15 start of workouts. The great thing about the Yankee clubhouse is the veterans have learned to shut out the hubbub and chatter from the media, which today numbered about 40 strong. Compare that to the Jays clubhouse where if there are six media members at once in the clubhouse on a workout day it's a throng. At 10:15, the Yankees PR man strolled through the clubhouse and advised that all media had to vacate the premises for a team meeting. Likely it was to do with advice on how to handle questions from the media horde regarding Pettitte and Roger Clemens. But, it was not a useless exercise in covering spring training. Far from it. There is a lot of information exchanged by media members covering different teams. For instance, I learned that the O's my be even worse than they look on paper. Oh, really? That could be gruesome. Anyway, it was out of the clubhouse to the tunnel with everyone else, with the Pettitte conference still four hours away.
"I don't know why I was standing there," said one veteran New York columnist. "I guess in case Pettitte walked in."
That's actually one of the great realities of being a beat writer for the Yankees. It's so competitive that if you weren't there and he did walk in, you would have hell to pay with your editors. Some good reporters have been burned out by the flames of that competition. In terms of comparison to current reality shows, covering the Yanks would be as exciting as Surreal World while covering the Royals, at the other end of the beat-writing spectrum, would be like Blind Date.
Anyway, no regrets. I always have a good experience coming over the causeway for this annual pre-Grapefruit League pilgrimage. I had scheduled myself to make this trip today, anyway, so when the upcoming Pettitte mea culpa popped up, it just decided my column.