Clang of Lockout Replaces Crack of Bat
VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ The clang of locks and chains replaced the crack of bats and balls as the sounds of spring training Thursday when the owners’ lockout finally began, closing camps on opening day.
″Usually you’d be hearing noise right now, players hitting and pitching and joking around,″ New York Mets coach Bud Harrelson said, surrounded by empty practice fields in Port St. Lucie, Fla. ″Not today.″
A few miles down the road from the gleaming complex, Mets pitcher Bob Ojeda tossed to catcher Barry Lyons on a beat-up Little League field.
″I guess we’re going back to our roots,″ Ojeda said. ″But it’s difficult to accomplish what you need to here. What we’re getting out of this is minimal.″
Later, Ojeda and some teammates played golf.
″It’s the first annual lockout invitational,″ he said, ″and no one knows how many rounds it’s going to last.″
All across Florida and Arizona, the sentiments were the same from players, management and fans: uncertainty, disappointment and anger.
In New York, negotiators for owners and players again met and tried to reach agreement on a new contract. Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report Thursday, but owners say baseball will not begin until there is a settlement.
In Vero Beach, the whistle of the wind through palm trees made the deserted Dodgertown seem like a tropical ghost town. That won’t last long, though.
On Friday, Los Angeles will become the first club to hold an official workout, using minor leaguers who are not affected by the lockout.
Craig Callan, director of Dodgertown, said 62 players will practice. Reggie Smith, John Roseboro and Steve Boros will be among the minor-league instructors in charge; major-league coaches are not allowed to participate.
The Dodgers had planned an early practice all along; the presence, however, of former major leaguers like Glenn Hoffman, Edwin Correa and Steve Davis - all non-roster players - surely will draw attention from management and labor.
″I’m really caught in the middle of all this,″ Davis, who pitched for Cleveland last season, said minutes before checking in. ″I’m not trying to take anyone’s job. I’m just trying to get a job.″
″It’s slower than hell,″ said Dodgertown employee Ger Strachota, testing the outdoor batting cages. ″I can’t wait until we get going.″
Neither can the fans, many of them upset spring training has been delayed for the first time since 1976 when a lockout lasted three weeks.
Rae McClelland of Port St. Lucie likes to watch the lazy, early days of camp, even the calisthenics and pitcher-covering-first base drills. But instead of open seats at the Mets’ ballpark on a gorgeous afternoon for baseball, she was met by locked gates and a newly hired security guard preventing anyone from getting inside.
″I’m very disappointed,″ she said. ″It looks dead.″
Even a few of the Mets’ minor leaguers drove by the stadium, just to get a look at the strange scene. Not many people stopped by the ticket office, though, and by noon four tickets had been bought.
That was more, though, than the Dodgers sold. The Dodgers have temporarily suspended sales for exhibition games.
″People aren’t even calling,″ ticket manager Olive Maiher said. ″The fans all seem to know the situation and they’re in limbo, just like us.″