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Author's Brief Bio

Charles Piper is the owner of Charles Piper’s Professional Services in West Tennessee. His company provides investigative, consulting and training services. Piper is also a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), and private investigator. Previously he served over 30 years in law enforcement including 20 as a Federal Agent. He’s also a veteran of the United States Army. Piper visited each of the 30 Major League baseball teams’ Spring Training stadiums and complexes in both Florida and Arizona and proudly shares his insight and tips for fans to get the most of Spring Training baseball.

Book Description (Synopsis)

Fields of Spring provides Major League Baseball fans with over 170 color photographs of Spring Training stadiums, complexes and action in both Florida or Arizona where the 30 MLB teams train. Tips are provided on catching free baseballs, getting autographs, seeing exhibition games inside the stadiums, and even customizing and displaying the memorabilia obtained during spring training visits. Stadium addresses and telephone numbers are provided as well as numerous useful websites. This is a must-have book for anyone who wonders what Spring Training is all about or wants to get the most out of their visits.

Book Front Cover Designer
Back Cover Description

Fields of Spring provides Major League Baseball fans with over 170 color photographs of Spring Training stadiums, complexes and action in both Florida or Arizona where the 30 MLB teams train. Tips are provided on catching free baseballs, getting autographs, seeing exhibition games inside the stadiums, and even customizing and displaying the memorabilia obtained during spring training visits. Stadium addresses and telephone numbers are provided as well as numerous useful websites. This is a must-have book for anyone who wonders what Spring Training is all about or wants to get the most out of their visits.

Author's Book Dedication

To my wife and daughters for
accompanying me on many of the trips to
the ballparks and for allowing me to take
the time to write this book.

Story Keywords

Spring Training,Cactus League,Grapefruit League,Florida,Arizona,Baseball,Travel,autographs,collectibles

Estimated Word Count

27000

Book Completion Date
Acknowledgements

Regarding the publication of, “Fields of Spring,” I’d like to express my appreciation to the following:
The Spring Training stadium and complex personnel, many of whom are volunteers, for taking the time and putting forth the efforts to make the fans’ experiences so enjoyable. From building and renovating the stadiums, manning the ticketing counters, posting information on the web, cutting of the grass, cleaning the stadiums, showing fans to their seats, and cooking the hotdogs – you hit home runs every day behind the scenes.
The Major League and Minor League players for taking the time to meet with fans, sign autographs and allowing fans to get the most out of their Spring Training visits.

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Team Member Editor
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Fields of Spring provides Major League Baseball fans with over 170 color photographs of Spring Training stadiums, complexes and action in both Florida or Arizona where the 30 MLB teams train.

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Contest Manuscript Details

ONE -
(“THE PRE-GAME SHOW”)

Photo: Tucson Electric Park.
Although no longer regularly used for Spring Training, the photo of this stadium captures the beauty too well to be omitted. Tucson Electric Park was previously the Spring Training home stadium of the Arizona Diamondbacks
and the Chicago White Sox.

Photo: 2005 Chicago White Sox at Spring Training in Tucson, Arizona.
This team went on to win the World Series. The Sox have since moved their Spring Training home to Camelback Ranch - Glendale.
"It’s a great day for baseball," shouted an energetic voice on my AM transistor radio.
"Hello again everybody! This is Harry Caray broadcasting live from Sarasota, Florida, where the Chicago White Sox will take on the ..."
It was early March 1971 and I was just a kid in grade school on the Southside of Chicago. The Sox were coming off a season in which they won 56 games and lost 106. The team made a lot of trades over the winter and Harry was starting his first season as a Chicago baseball announcer. His genuine enthusiasm made me and a lot of other die hard White Sox fans think that maybe this could be the year that the White Sox would win it all! (But they hadn’t even been to a World Series since 1959.) Little did I know it would take another twenty-four years before the White Sox would actually go to and then win the World Series.
In many ways that radio broadcast was like a dream. While my own neighborhood’s streets were full of ice, snow and slush, I wondered how in the world teams could be playing baseball anywhere. In fact, some of my neighbors' cars were buried under a few feet of snow! My family and I never had to worry about things like snow-tires or scrapping ice off windshields because we never had a car anyway. Heck, our family never left the Southside of Chicago! Florida seemed about as far away as Europe and I just assumed I’d never get there.
But life often takes us in directions we least expect. While in my late teens, I left Chicago and due to my professional career choices, ended up living in Europe for a couple years, later moved to Florida and then moved to the west coast.
Not only did I later get to personally watch the White Sox practice during Spring Training in Sarasota, Florida (and catch a few batting practice balls and get a few autographs), but I later watched the Sox practice in Arizona in 2005 when (unknown to me at the time) the team was preparing to win the World Series title!
I later met Harry Caray a few times and was fortunate to have received an autographed photo from him while he was later broadcasting games for the Chicago Cubs. This photo is now framed and proudly displayed with some of my other baseball memorabilia.

Photo: Autographed photo provided by Harry Caray to the author.
Over the years, I’ve traveled throughout Florida and Arizona several times and visited all of the Major League Baseball teams’ Spring Training stadiums and complexes. Every time I entered a stadium for the first time, I felt like a rich kid on Christmas morning. After handing over my admission ticket at the gate and pushing through the turnstile, I quickly ran inside to see the stadiums’ playing fields, players taking batting practice and seating areas. I felt like a kid, but was actually in my 30s and 40s!
Saying that the inside of the stadiums are beautiful is inadequate. The playing fields are usually in pristine condition with well-manicured lush green lawn and two perfectly drawn white-chalked lines leading from the batter’s box all the way to the left and right field walls. The infield bases are bright white. The sand around the infield and home plate is completely smooth. When you’re one of the first fans to enter the stadiums, the seating areas are immaculate and all the seats are folded up. It’s just perfect.
In fact, I sometimes visited a few stadiums on non-game days and was actually the only fan sitting inside watching Major League players practicing. On those days, I felt like the richest man in the world.

Photo: Legends Field (since renamed George M. Steinbrenner Field) in Tampa, Florida. Spring Training home of the New York Yankees.
Over the years, I’ve visited many of the Spring Training ballparks and complexes in both Arizona and Florida numerous times. I’ve caught so many batting practice balls that they’ve filled boxes. I’ve even received a couple non-cracked bats from players. But I never let any of that stuff just sit around and collect dust. I quickly got those baseballs, bats and other memorabilia autographed by some of the best players to ever play the game.
Photo: Numerous baseballs, player autographs
and a few bats obtained during Spring Training.
To add to my autograph collection, sometimes I corresponded with players through the mail. Later I personally custom framed the autographs that were on paper items (usually news articles) and purchased ball holders and display cases to show-off the autographed baseballs. I’m going to share all this knowledge with you too! My personal baseball player autograph collection includes but is not limited to the following:
Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken, Jr., Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, Jeff Montgomery, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Billy Williams, Andre Dawson, Tom Glavine, Wade Boggs, Carlos Beltran, Josh Hamilton, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Allen Trammell, Gates Brown, Mickey Lolich, Robert Fick, Tony Clark, Darrell Evans, Tony Perez, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Derrick Bell, Jose Lima, Edgar Martinez, Frank Howard, Frank Robinson, Bill Melton, Chipper Jones, “Goose” Gossage, “Doc” Gooden, Greg “The Bull” Luzinski, Bob “Rapid Robert” Feller, Mookie Wilson, Pedro Martinez, Tony Gwynn, Ron Kittle, Richie Zisk, Tom Seaver, Robin Yount, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, Monte Irvin, Kerry Wood, Dave Winfield, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Mark Quinn, George Brett, Mike Sweeney, Frank White, Joe Strong, Garry Sheffield, Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Edgar Renteria, Jeff Conine, Al Leiter, Craig Counsell, Livan Hernandez, Sal Bando, Johnny Pesky, Johnny Damon, Will Clark, Fred McGriff, Bill Madlock, Albert Belle, Luis Gonzalez, Curt Schilling, Dave Justice, Jeff Kent, Jim Palmer, Robin Roberts, Mark McGwire, Jim Morris (made famous by Disney’s movie, “The Rookie”) and many more.

Photos: Autographed baseballs signed by: Al Kaline, Mariano Rivera, and Tony Perez. The baseballs (on the ends) and all three autographs were obtained at Spring Training in Florida and later placed in display cases with engraved plates.
In addition to the players, I also got autographs from managers: Tony LaRussa, Tommy Lasorda, Davey Johnson, Jimmy Leyland, Terry Francona, Dusty Baker, Robin Ventura, and others. I also met and got autographs from New York Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner and Hall of Fame baseball announcers Ernie Harwell and Harry Caray – “Holy Cow!”
Here’s the interesting part about all of this: Except for the price of a few game tickets and an occasional few postage stamps, I got all those baseballs, autographs and bats for free! In many cases I got 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6 autographs from the same players. Before you start thinking that’s greedy, let me tell you that I never once sold anything that I obtained during Spring Training. I have however, given away dozens of valuable autographed items to others.
For example: Two different friends told me they were big Detroit Tigers fans; I gave them both baseballs autographed by Al Kaline. One friend told me that George Brett was his childhood idol; I gave him a framed, color, autographed picture of Brett. A church was seeking items for donation to use in a silent auction for a worthy cause; I donated a framed photograph signed by Jeff Bagwell and baseballs autographed by Wade Boggs and Johnny Damon. One of my favorite give-a-ways was to a huge Cal Ripken Jr. fan. It was a signed Baltimore newspaper sports page autographed by Cal Ripken Jr., which was dated September 7, 1995. The newspaper page had color photographs and headlines detailing Cal’s breaking of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played record. Providing players with historic items to autograph (like newspaper stories & headlines) make for great keepsakes.

Photos: Autographs of Cal Ripken, Jr., and
the 1997 Florida Marlins on newspaper front pages.
.
Autograph from Jim Morris (made famous from the movie, “The Rookie”) Autographs obtained during Spring Training in Florida and later custom framed.

Photos: Autographs obtained from Tony Gwynn, Luis Gonzalez, Tom Glavine
Paul Molitor and Wade Boggs (and later custom framed).

Oh yea, my collection also includes a few other autographs not obtained during Spring Training that I either paid for at in-person signings or were given to me: Ted Williams (the last player to hit over .400), Pete Rose (the all-time hits leader), Minnie Minoso, Ron Santo, Johnny Bench, Phil Rizzuto and Denny McClain who in 1968 won 31 games, lost 6 (with a 1.96 Earned Run Average) and won both the American League Cy Young and the Most Valuable Player Awards.
In February 2001, I had an experience that any baseball fan would envy. I received a VIP-Pass to the 8th Annual Ted Williams’ Hitters Hall of Fame induction ceremony. At the time, the annual event was held at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame in Hernando, Florida. The Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame has been moved inside Tropicana Field (Home of the Tampa Bay Rays.)
I was one of the few non-players inside the museum and rubbing elbows with some of the greatest baseball players of all-time. I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was when walking up the museum’s red carpeted entrance while hundreds of other fans were partitioned off several yards away waiting and hoping to take photos or get autographs from the players.

Photo: The author at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame in 2001

Twenty years before, I was a kid on the Southside of Chicago fantasizing what it would be like to attend Spring Training in Florida and there I was a VIP in the Ted Williams Museum & Hitters Hall of Fame with some of the greatest Major League players to ever play the game!

The good news for you is that this book will share firsthand insight gained on getting the most out of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training in both Arizona and Florida.
The games are great, the admission prices are reasonable, and the players are getting ready for a brand new season with hopes of exceeding everyone’s expectations. And you can be part of it.
“It’s your time to have a ball!”

Photos: Youngsters showing off newly obtained baseballs during Spring
Training at the practice fields near Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Florida.

At home with a collection of souvenirs.