Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, Back To Peoria I Go …

So here I am, back in Peoria, for Round Two of my Spring Training adventure.

Ahh, Peoria. Thank you for not closing down any of your 3,927 chain restaurants and shops. Thank you for driving up prices in hotels near the Peoria Sports Complex, so that I have to stay in a seedy neighborhood in a shady part of Phoenix where some dude asked me if I wanted to see his knife while I was pumping gas at a nearby station. Thank you for making your stoplights into a Russian Roulette game. And thank you for being sticky icky hot, so that I’m sweaty and wondering if I smell or have makeup running down my face or hair sticking to the back of my neck.

But I digress.

No, really … I like Peoria. I do. I like Spring Training. I like the drive on 8 East to get here (just me, my music, my random thoughts and usually an obscene gesture from a trucker at some point) … I LOVE being at the complex, because it’s pretty and fresh and it’s just a bunch of guys playing baseball. It’s awesome. Honestly, if you’ve never been here but you like baseball even REMOTELY, you need to make it out next year. You’ll love it. I feel like it’s the way the sport is meant to be — just a bunch of fellas out on the grass, playing the game they love. The clubhouse is happy, the coaches are happy, the fans are happy.

It’s a hopeful time. I’m a fan of hope.

I like this group of Padres. There is character, there is scrappyness, there is a blending of old traditions and new Mojo. I dig it. You’ve got Mark Kotsay organizing some player bonding time, you’ve got Tim Stauffer pranking Huston Street, you’ve got new catcher John Baker getting into intelligent debates with Carlos Quentin. Like I said … character.

Oh, and they can play a little, too.

While we know Spring Training games are “meaningless”, it’s still worth pointing out that the Padres won 12 of their last 15 games before being blanked today by Chicago. It’s important because of MOMENTUM. I like momentum. I’m a fan of momentum. When I’m shopping, and I find three or four cute things, it gives me the momentum to keep going and find some more. And that’s always fun.

Again, I digress.

Will Venable told me this morning that while he doesn’t like to look back, he remembers Spring Training of 2010, the Spring Training before the season in which the Padres went 90-72 and placed second in the NL West. He said the team won a lot of consecutive games during Spring Training 2010, and that got things rolling for the season. In 2011, the team never got it going during their time in Peoria, and never got it going during the regular season either. So again … Spring Training wins are good for confidence, for camaraderie, and (say it with me now) for momentum. FEELING what it feels like to WIN. (Something I don’t do a whole lot, but I hear it’s awesome. Just ask Charlie Sheen.)

Since we’re talking about Venable, let’s point out how he got two more hits against the Cubs today and raised his batting average to .372, the best on the team. He told me he fixed a few mechanics and feels a lot more control at the plate right now, and also said working with new Padres hitting coach Phil Plantier has helped. Plantier focuses on the positive, Venable said, and when he encourages players to concentrate on the things they do RIGHT, it’s easier to form and maintain good habits. We all need a little Phil in our lives, dontcha think? (By the way, during Round One of Spring Training, Plantier and I talked hitting.)

Lots more to come this week. I’ve got come cool photos and videos, but my internet connection at Hotel Shady is not the best, so it’ll wait for now. I can feel you all on the edge of your seats. Simmer, simmer. Patience.




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