"1996 at Carpenter Field. Stayed at the Econ-O-Lodge or Holiday Inn, right down the street. My roommate was Torrey Pettiford, a teammate the year before at Batavia. Walking in the clubhouse the first time made me a little nervous. First few days was uneasy, making sure I was at the right place at the right time according to the daily schedule. Always liked spring training because of the relaxed atmosphere. There was no pressure. It was a matter of getting your body and mind in shape for the season. What didn't I like? The early mornings every day. Getting up at 7 a.m., totally a different lifestyle than the season."
Andy Ashby (RHP, 1991-1992; 2000)
"I signed in 1986 so my first spring training was the following year. Remember walking in the first day and seeing all the lockers. Everything was so well organized. I was scared to death at the beginning that I would be on the wrong field. Things started to calm down, formed new friendships and began to learn the Phillies way. We stayed at the Days Inn near the complex. Bob Evans restaurant was next to the motel. My first number was 72. It was a mesh jersey and I still have it someplace. Always liked spring training. As you progressed you saw some of your friends reach the majors and you remember how he worked his butt off. It gave me incentive. Once in the major league camp and being a pitcher, it seemed to be a bit easier. There were days when you were finished at 10 a.m. It wasn't like that in the minor leagues. What didn't I like? (laughing) "Coming in from 90 degree heat and having hot soup for lunch."
Larry Bowa (SS, 1971-80)
"1967 with the big club. Dressed in the tiny rookie row at Jack Russell; wore #53. We all stayed at the Jack Tar Hotel. After seeing me hit, Gene Mauch said, 'I can see him catch the ball, see him throw the ball, see him run but when he hits I don't hear anything.' Rookies worked out on the old field about a block away. Somebody named it Iwo Jima. The infield was filled with stones. Ground balls were bouncing off my chest, arms, neck. Hated that place. I remember sitting on the bench next to Larry Hisle. We weren't playing. He said something funny, I lowered my head and laughed. They I saw two feet facing me. Looked up and it was Mauch. 'What's the count?' I had no idea. 'You'll learn more watching the game and not laughing.' Other than that, always enjoyed spring training. I didn't have Mike Schmidt's ability so I had to work hard every year, felt like I had to win a job. Every year was new, whether you were coming off a bad year or a good year. Challenges every year."
Pat Burrell (OF, 2000-2008)
"My first spring training was 1999 and I was invited to the big league camp. Lived on the beach in Sand Key and roomed with Thomas Jacquez. Wore #76 and I was a first baseman while working in the outfield. I learned quickly that John Vukovich ran spring training at every level and it was well organized. Also learned quickly how well Vuk was respected by everyone."
Don Carman (LHP 1983-1990)
"My first spring training was in 1979, I think….close enough. Clearwater, Carpenter Field and Jack Russell Stadium. Stayed at the Days Inn in Pinellas Park. My roommate was Mark Davis. The first day of spring training was a big moment in my life. I will never forget, we were at Carpenter Complex; Dallas Green was the director of the minor leagues. He stood in front of the crowd of athletes and with his booming voice and larger than life personality announced himself. He went on to introduce each of the coaches. I was very impressed. Following the introductions, Dallas was silent. He took a breath and said, 'There are 176 players in this room, you will be lucky if 10 of you make it to the big leagues.' There was silence in the room, you could have heard a pin drop. I looked around at the other players thinking, 'I'm one, I wonder who the other 9 are.'"
Doug Clemens (OF, 1966-1968)
"Having signed with the Cardinals in August 1960 and going to the big leagues the next month, my first spring training actually started at the major league level for a few weeks the following spring in St. Petersburg. I was starry-eyed being on the same field with the likes of Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Kenny Boyer, Bill White, Curt Flood. Stayed at a motel and roomed with Tim McCarver. I was sent down to the Cardinals' minor league camp in Homestead, FL, after two-three weeks.
"My first day memory was just seeing this amazing sight of ball fields littered with what seemed like hundreds of players. A sight I'll never forget! There were instructors and coaches with megaphones, yelling and screaming as we were assembled on different fields by team. What I didn't like about spring training was that regardless of how hard you tried to be in good condition for spring training, it didn't seem to work. Working indoors in the north could not match the outdoor surroundings and physical activities presented at spring training. Getting in shape that first spring resulted in numerous aches and pains along the way."
Rheal Cormier (LHP, 2001-2006)
"My first minor league camp was in 1989 with the Cardinals in St Petersburg. We stayed at the Rodeway Inn on 4th Street. My roommate was Bob Tewksbury. I didn't know anybody in camp but Mike Fiore. He was on Team USA in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, while I was on Team Canada. I remember none of the Class A managers wanted me but Dave Bialis, St. Petersburg manager, took a chance on me. I enjoyed spring training and getting reacquainted with friends from the previous season, a chance to move up the ladder and leave the cold winters in New Brunswick, Canada. I felt spring training was too long. Plus, it was kind of a disappointment seeking some guys out of shape. I never took anything for granted my whole career and always focused on being in the best shape possible every year."
Denny Doyle (2B, 1970-1973)
"First year, 1967; stayed at a hotel near the complex but can't remember the name. Del Wilber Jr. was my roommate. Wore #51. Was excited and in awe of so many players. Didn't know if I would make it. Had something like 37-38 errors (second base) at Spartanburg the year before. The second day Paul Owens tossed a first baseman's glove in my locker. 'You have to learn to use leather if you want to make it' he said. All spring he hit ground balls to me using that glove. It really helped me.
"Couple years later I was in the big league camp but I was late reporting because I was coaching a high school basketball team back home. Walked on the field and Gene Mauch came up to me, 'How did that bleeping basketball team do? Get out there (pointing to second base).' He had me chasing ground balls all over the place. Later, we were playing the Tigers and Mickey Lolich, a lefty, was pitching. Being a left-handed hitter, I figured I'm sitting today. Mauch glared at me at the far end of the dugout, crossed Taylor's name from the line-up card, walked toward me, 'You're in there.' Lolich found my bat three times, two singles and a double. I wound being the last cut anyway, sent to AAA in Eugene, OR. I always liked spring training, nothing I didn't like."
Brandon Duckworth (RHP, 2001-2003)
"It would have been 1998 at Carpenter Field. Stayed at the Hampton Inn and roomed with Ryan Branyan. Have no idea what was my uniform number. I was really excited that first day, knowing that pro ball had finally arrived. I knew nobody but was looking forward to the challenge. Always glad to get to spring training and get out of the cold weather. Anxious to seeing teammates again and meeting new teammates. What didn't I like? Well, in the big league camp, you were on the bottom of the totem pole as a rookie. So, you got to take all the 3-hour bus rides. Sometimes, I never got in a game."
Scott Franzke (Broadcaster 2006-)
"My first spring training memory came during my junior year at SMU. Two buddies and I decided to make spring training our spring break so we started driving from Dallas to Florida after the last class on Friday. We were non-stop with three of us taking turns at driving. We got to Winter Haven where the Red Sox trained. The game was sold out so we wound up buying standing room. We spent two-three days in Florida, staying in the cheapest motels we could find and then drove back to Dallas.
"As far as my first big league camp, 2002 with the Rangers, their last spring in Port Charlotte. I did the pre- and post-game show on KRLD radio and was a fill-in play-by-play announcer. My first broadcast ever was the Phillies and Rangers. Vincente Padilla started for the Phillies.
"What do I like about spring training? Since living in Philadelphia, the warm weather is definitely appealing. What don't I like? This may sound strange, Clearwater Beach traffic."
Dallas Green (RHP, 1960-64; 1967)
"It was 1956. Bob Conley, Don Cardwell, Chris Short and I were invited to a mini-camp before the big league camp opened in Clearwater. Short and I rode the train from Wilmington, Delaware. We stayed at the West Coast Hotel, three to a room. We weren't allowed to have cars so we walked everywhere.
"We were kept around to throw BP TO Hamner, Jones, Ennis, Ashburn and those guys. We were young, wild, could throw hard and we were trying to impress everyone. The vets hated us, didn't want to face us. Later, I was sent to Bennettsville, South Carolina where the Phillies low minor league players trained. I wore No. 177 or 176.
Tom McCarthy (Broadcaster, 2001-2005; 2007-)
"I remember my first big league spring training like it was yesterday. It was 2001. I had no idea of where I was going or where I was staying. I wound up staying at the old Adams Mark on Clearwater Beach. That night I watched the sunset for first time and thinking it was the most spectacular thing I have ever a seen.
"I had this oversized recorder that was the width and length of a school notebook binder to do a feature segments of the radio pre-game show called, 'Growing Up With Baseball'. My first interview was with Larry Bowa. When I was done, he thanked me and welcomed me aboard. He said: 'Thanks Mac, let me know if you need anything.'
"I must have done six features that day. I didn't want anyone to think I was there fooling around. And, I thought it was the greatest thing to hang in the press box that day with Wheels, Harry, LA and Scott (Graham). I was part of their team and they made me feel so welcome."
Brett Myers (RHP, 2002-2009)
"First minor league camp was 15 years ago at Carpenter Field. Stayed in the Econ-O-Lodge and roomed with Russ Jacobson, a catcher. My memory of my first day was like the first day of school, excited and nervous. Minor league spring training wasn't the easiest work days back then so there wasn't much to like about it. You spent all day at the field. When games started we had to do pitching charts and do the radar gun and sometimes didn't get home until 6 p.m. and then had to wake up and do it all over again. It was Groundhog Day. I guess the best thing was when it was over and the season started. Big league spring training was fun because it was like a mini-vacation for our families. The days weren't as long and we were able to spend time with teammates and our families. Loved when the games started, especially the home games. The support we got from fans in Philly made every season feel like it was going to be a winning one."
Dickie Noles (RHP, 1979-1981; 1990)
"First spring training was in 1976 and stayed at the Best Western right besides "LUMS restaurant" now Lenny's. There was a lot to like about spring training, the beginning of a new year, a time to start getting ready for the season, seeing my teammates, the weather, really the whole atmosphere. What didn't I like, nothing, really."
Dick Ruthven (RHP, 1973-1975; 1978-1983)
"I was drafted in January of 1973, signed and a few weeks later was in spring training with the major league club in Clearwater. Dressed in 'rookie row', a tiny row of tiny lockers. My number was 59 or something like that. Stayed with LC (Larry Christenson) on the beach. I remember the first time we worked out at the complex I saw a pitcher warming up with the name Wallace on the back. I recognized him right away. I had played against him in Virginia when I was 11. I liked spring training. You were spoiled being a pitcher because you got off early when it wasn't your turn to start and could go golfing, fishing or the beach. Bull and Boonie would get home about 5 and I had already spent most of the day on the beach. I wasn't crazy about the bus rides and being from the west coast, I wasn't used to the humidity."
Mike Schmidt (3B, 1972-89)
"My first minor league camp was in 1972 at Carpenter Complex. We stayed at the old West Coast Hotel in downtown Clearwater. The following spring I was in the big league camp at Jack Russell and my number was 22. What I most remember about the first day? The circle jerk and all those other archaic physical fitness regiments they put us through. At the end of the camp, I was sent all the way at the opposite end of the country, Eugene, OR, then the Phillies AAA team."
Bobby Shantz (LHP, 1964)
"Geez, that was a long time ago. I signed in 1948 and was sent to Lincoln, NE, where I won 18 games. So my first camp was the next year and it was the big league camp. The A's trained in West Palm Beach. We stayed in a hotel in downtown and ate there too. My roommate was Alex Kellner. Next year I was married and we rented a small house. My first uniform number was 30 and that's what I wore all of my six years with the A's. Met Mr. Mack (manager Connie Mack) that spring. He was quiet and I don't remember him talking to me very much. I always loved spring training. Heck, it got us out of the crappy winter weather in the north into sunshine in Florida. Spring training then meant getting in shape, although Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Curt Simmons, Stan Lopata, and I worked out all winter in Conshohocken. There was nothing I disliked about spring training."
Curt Simmons (LHP (1947-1950; 1952-1960)
"Major League Baseball had a rule you had to be on the big league roster if you got a big bonus which I did in 1947 after graduating from high school. I went to spring training for the first time in 1948 in Clearwater. Heck, it was my first time in Florida. Stayed at the Fort Harrison Hotel. Not sure about a roommate but I do remember Cy Perkins, a coach, roomed with me the first night. I remember it well because his snoring kept me up all night. My uniform number was 28 right from the start. We practiced and played games at Athletic Field. It had a small clubhouse. You dressed quickly so you could go out on the field. I was just 18 and really didn't know many people or what to expect. George Earnshaw was a roving pitching instructor. He'd line up all the pitchers for a race. I usually won because I was is good shape and could run. Took the train to Clearwater, something like 24 hours to get there. Clearwater was a small town then, mostly orange groves."
Chris Wheeler (PR, 1972-82; broadcaster 1983-2013)
"My first trip to Clearwater was in February, 1972, first spring training and staying at the Ft. Harrison Hotel. Everyone lived there including the players. It was a tremendous bonding experience with the media present every afternoon in the 'cheese room.'
"The first looks at the Complex and Jack Russell Stadium were almost a spiritual experience to a baseball nut who had only heard about those shrines through newspapers, photos and occasional black and white video.
"My most memorable experience was sitting with Larry Shenk in the hotel coffee shop for breakfast when he told me we were trading Rick Wise for Steve Carlton. We both knew it was going to be an unpopular move. It was. The rest is Phillies and baseball history. My first exhibition game also was memorable. Shortly before the game Larry said he PA announcer didn't show up and asked me, 'Have you ever done the PA and if I would do it today?' I had never done any such work but I instantly replied yes. Except for two years when I was part of the TV team, I've been the PA announcer for every Clearwater home game since then.
"What do I like about spring training? Everything. Even back in the days when you worked long hours in PR. Now I have a chance to be around baseball, play golf and enjoy one of the prettiest locations in the country. What do I dislike about spring training? Easy. The day we leave town. It always goes too fast."
Rick Wise (RHP, 1964; 1966-1971)
"First spring training was in 1964 in the big league camp. Dressed in the rookie row in the clubhouse, a long, narrow row in the back. Had a little cubby for a locker with three-four nails to hang clothing. We stayed at the Jack Tar Hotel. Don't remember my uniform number then other than it was in the 60s. I was excited to be there. We had seven-eight hour workouts because we only had two fields, Jack Russell and a beat up field a block away everyone called Iwo Jima. Being a rookie, I spent most of my time on that field. I loved spring training. The winter as over and it was time for baseball again. Hope sprang eternal. Later in my career, thought spring training was too long. Pitchers and catchers always reported before everyone else and it made for a long spring."