Gone, but not forgotten
Darr presence is felt at Padres' campPosted: Monday March 04, 2002 12:52 PM
Throughout spring training, CNNSI.com will feature regular dispatches from Sports Illustrated staffers assigned to scout camps in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues.
By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated
Team: San Diego Padres
Site: Peoria, Az.
Weather: Deathly cold and windy (especially for the moron Sports Illustrated writer who wore shorts.)
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked: Pitcher Ben Howard. As the Padres' clubhouse buzzed with early morning activity, the 23-year-old right-hander sat quietly by his locker and took everything in. The fact that he's present and pitching and a part of things is fantastic, considering he was in the back seat of the car Mike Darr crashed two weeks ago. Darr and a companion were killed. Howard, the only one wearing a safety belt, was barely hurt.
Around the Horn: Each Padres player was given a blue T-shirt with Darr's No. 26 on the back, and the phrase "My s---'s tight, bro," on the front. It was a popular part of Darr's lingo. ... Ryan Klesko, the first baseman who's working on his move back to the outfield, has his best friend around for support. Klesko's dog, a little white thing with a snout, is the clubhouse's unofficial mascot. ... Ron Gant, a non-roster outfielder who played with Colorado and Oakland last year, has been the surprise of camp. Gant, 37, was an underdog to make the club, but he's shown a lively bat. "He's been the most impressive guy in batting practice," says manager Bruce Bochy. "He can still swing." ... The Padres gave shortstop Deivi Cruz a cake for his birthday, then sang Happy 27th, 28th, 29th Birthday To You. It was recently learned that Cruz is not 26, but 29. ... Ray Lankford, who often looked lost at the plate last year, has been stinging the ball in BP.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jeff Pearlman will check in periodically with reports from his tour of spring camps. Click here to send a question to his Spring Training Mailbag.