Here is your unsolicited recommendation for spring training: Attend a ballgame at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. This is the spring training home of the Tigers, and is, by a wide margin, the best Florida stadium I've visited in the last 1-1/2 months. The seats are dark green, one tier rising up about 25 rows. Every stadium worker has a name like Harold or Beverly, and looks like he/she has been working here for 53 years running. A beautiful hillside rises behind the left field fence, and is dotted with picnickers, couples on blankets, kids horsing around, etc. Every stadium should have a hill like that.
I could go on. The place has the best concessions in the Grapefruit League. You can smell the grilled, smoking meats when you walk in here; a heavy barbecue smoke sifts through the concourse, rising from the flat stovetops. Palm trees stand erect behind the outfield wall, and maybe that's a spring training cliche, but it reminds me that I'm in Florida. The outfield wall has billboards that mention places like the Terrace Hotel and Rodda Construction, perhaps the only two non-chains in Florida. The scoreboard has an analog clock atop it. The only decoration on the field is Detroit's iconic old-style "D," which is all white.
Also, there is a Five Guys about 1.3 miles down the road.
Those are your reasons to come to Joker Marchant Stadium.
Now that we're here...
* Craig Stammen is starting today for the Nats. Some in the Nats front office really like the guy, and there was some internal talk of inviting the right-hander to major league camp this year. Instead, Stammen has been relegated to the minors -- until today's cameo appearance. Stammen, 25, split last year among Class A Potomac (4-2, 2.21 ERA), Class AAA Columbus (1-4, 7.33 ERA), and Class AA Harrisburg (3-1, 1.64 ERA). He was drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 draft, which is one round after the Nats selected John Lannan. The two pitchers are actually close friends.
* Dmitri Young, for that matter, is making something of a cameo here as well. He will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Nats; rather, DY will remain down in Viera for a few more weeks and rehab. After that, he'll go on a rehab assignment with one of Washington's affiliates.
* The Nationals are still uncertain if second baseman Anderson Hernandez will be able to recover from his hamstring injury in time for Opening Day. Hernandez strained his left hamstring in last Wednesday's exhibition game, and yesterday went through some light running and jogging exercises.
"He didn't have any setbacks," Manager Manny Acta said. "Let's put it that way. But we cannot put a timetable just because of yesterday. He was able to do the walking and jogging, but we won't be able to determine the Opening Day stuff."
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