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Indians spring training behind the scenes: Busy day with team photos and memorabilia signing

By Stephanie Storm Published: February 24, 2014

Monday was one of those days you just can’t really prep yourself for. The quiet, little routine the handful of us local reporters had settled into the last two weeks was thrown into chaos when the Indians spring training complex morphed into a beehive of activity that made for a long day and a hectic atmosphere.

With the Tribe’s first spring training game Wednesday when they open Cactus League play against the neighboring Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark, all kinds of media have descended upon the place.

Monday kicked off Spring Training Radio Week, so many of the Cleveland area radio folks have come to gather interviews. Monday also marked the team’s Photo Day, so players were all over the place in and out of the clubhouse, going from room to room for radio interviews and to have their pictures taken for the season.

In the middle of it all, delivery trucks pulled in and out of the complex parking lot all day, including one that dropped off 10,000 pounds of cases of Gatorade drinks. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not!

After watching the clubhouse attendants lug load after load of the bottled drinks into a storage room just off the clubhouse, I checked the exact amount with Fletcher Wilkes, who has served as the Tribe’s Goodyear clubhouse manager since it’s inception. And my old buddy Wilkes wouldn’t lie to me. We go way back as he was Akron’s longtime main clubbie when I first started covering the Double-A team over a decade ago. 

“If there’s any left over, they’ll just take it back (to Cleveland) with them,” Wilkes said with a shrug after the haul had been completed.

TWEET OF THE DAY - My favorite tweet Monday once again came from Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (@MLBastian), who tweeted this along with a picture: “A smiling Jason Giambi, after taking a Twitter selfie as part of photo day: “The game has changed. The game has (bleeping) changed.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY - “(Pitcher Trevor Bauer) was like, ‘this sign is for this pitch, this sign is for that pitch’…but I couldn’t remember all of his pitches. He has so many!” That was part of a conversation I happened to overhear between minor league catcher Tony Wolters and an instructor during a pause in the team’s workout. Wolters, of course, was referring to Bauer’s growing repertoire, which sounds like it might be as eclectic as the right-hander himself can be at times.

CROSS POLLINATING – I wrote this section as the lead of my notebook in today’s Akron Beacon Journal, but felt it was worth cross pollinating in order to share with both our print and digital readers about a cool spring training rite I happened to stumble upon Monday because…well, I’m nosey.

Tucked away in a back room of the main hallway in a non-descript room used as a classroom when needed, Indians coordinator of community relations, Justin Sherman, was directing a small staff as they set up piles of player and team memorabilia for the entire season to be signed.

A bunch of brand new bats still encased in protective plastic sleeves lay on the ground under a table waiting to be signed by slugger Giambi in one area of the room.

Several boxes containing brand new white baseballs were stacked up on a desk in another area waiting to be autographed by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

“We try to make it as easy as possible for the guys, lining up the balls in the box with the sweet spot up, ready for their signature,” said Sherman, who is in his eighth season with the Tribe.

A stack of never-worn white jerseys with Michael Bourn’s name and number were piled high on another desk awaiting centerfielder’s signature.

“Everyone on the roster has a time to come in and sign today,” Sherman said. “Some guys who don’t have a lot of stuff can do it in a half hour or so. Others have to pop in a couple different times to get all done.”

First baseman Nick Swisher’s pile of 500 items was the largest this year. But All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis wasn’t far behind with 470 items. Giambi had 250 pieces of memorabilia to autograph.

Every item is authenticated with a small, shiny silver hologram sticker featuring a number that is logged and kept on file by Major League Baseball. In order to ensure nothing goes missing, the room is monitored by a live video feed.

“The sticker tells you who signed, what day and where – spring training or regular season,” explained Tristan Blaylock, one of the authenticators who spent his time applying the stickers and keeping the day’s log of items.

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