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Camelback Ranch: A rookie’s report

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After witnessing the end of this year’s spring training, SSS’s Darren Black offers a thumbnail guide

Through These Doors: Lots of action to see once inside the center field gate at Camelback Ranch.
Darren Black

Spring training never interested me until recently. I did not see the point of going to games that did not matter, to watch players who would never be on the Chicago White Sox.

That all changed once general manager Rick Hahn implemented the rebuild, and watching minor league ball players became an event.

Still, most of the players in White Sox camp will not make it to the big league club, and some may need to be traded to benefit the 2019 and beyond White Sox. But the big draw right now are those prospects.

To have a full Camelback Ranch experience, it is best to arrive at the complex three hours before first pitch. You will have to deal with dreaded adult autograph seekers in Gordon Beckham jerseys with their binders (emphasis on binders, plural) full of baseball cards. However, you can see players walking over to warm up for either their major or minor league games.

Put Me in, Coach: Every game day is a red carpet walk of sorts, for White Sox minor leaguers heading toward their work day.
Darren Black

All four of the players above, who were hard to recognize, headed over to the minor league games that were located just beyond the center field gate. If you have kids, make sure they are not shy about walking up to players; they might get a baseball.

Hey, This Kid Got a Baseball! No truth to the rumor Darren kneeled to a child’s height to score this pill.
Darren Black

If timed correctly, a fan can watch about four straight hours of baseball. That baseball orgy can feature lower-level prospects like Gavin Sheets shooting a single up the middle in a minor league game, chased by a Seby Zavala a three-run homer crushed at Camelback — just how we did it on Sunday.

The Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers and ended up winning, 16-1, to finish with a winning record in Arizona at 16-12. It was understood that most of the regulars like Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada would leave the finale early to get to Charlotte, but those early absences gave fans a chance to see players they hadn’t before.

There were rousing cameos by Eddy Alvarez, who hit a two-run blast, Joel Booker who went 3-for-5, and a nice surprise in Spencer Adams, who pitched four strong innings with one earned after dealing with an injury earlier in spring.

Camelback Ranch is a great experience, and one every fan should make multiple times. The only drawback was that Los Angeles Dodgers players and warmups were more accessible compared to those of the White Sox, but the Pale Hose do still take time out of their routine to interact and sign autographs. Even Hahn was a sought-after signee, which shows how excited fans are about the future of the franchise.

Most of the questions that began the spring 2018 were about development of top prospects Hahn and the front office have acquired. By next season, Sox fans should be able to look at their Cactus League club and have major league expectations for those prospects. And anyone can see their development firsthand, early next year in Arizona.