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Baseball is a pleasure in the spring

Florida spring training memories:

*Minor league rookies in the Red Sox Chain 'O Lakes camp ignoring the instructions being given by Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter ever to pick up a bat, while a bunch of elderly fans savored his every word while eavesdropping through a nearby fence.

*Paul Molitor, a scientist at the plate, spending hours in the Blue Jays batting cage underneath the old park at Dunedin.

*Lou Piniella, when he was managing the Reds, instead of begging off on an interview inviting me to accompany him on a long walk to the Cincinnati minor leaguers' diamonds at Plant City, all the while telling me just about everything I wanted to know.

*Pete Rose, in happier days as a Phillie, kibitzing with slugger Mike Schmidt in the batting cage, calling him "Herbie," the pet name he had assigned to him.

*Rose, with Joe DiMaggio making a surprise visit to the Philadelphia camp in Clearwater, being shocked when he heard a kid refer to the great Yankee as "Mr. Coffee."

*Walking down "Sandy Koufax Lane" at Dodgertown and passing Sandy Koufax.

*Tommy Lasorda holding court at Dodgertown and making sure I met his star rookie pitcher whose grandparents lived in Buffalo. It was Orel Hershiser.

*Carlos Delgado, as a young Blue Jay, always offering a friendly greeting during his Toronto days.

*Sparky Anderson and his Detroit Tigers' coaching staff at Lakeland, reminiscing about their days in the International League.

*Carlton Fisk, typically grumpy and very profane with his Vermont accent, whether he was a Red Sox or White Sox.

*The late Jack Buck, my friend on the Pro Football Hall of Fame electors panel, making sure I was introduced to each member of the Cardinals when I visited their park in St. Petersburg.

*Admiring the fatherly patience of hitting coaches like Bill Robinson of the Pirates, Larry Hisle of the Blue Jays and Charlie Lau of the White Sox.

*Listening to the older Yankees veterans' admiring appraisal of a rookie named Derek Jeter.

*Dick Vitale, the basketball mouth, dropping in at the Cardinals' camp to enliven things.

*Lou Saban, at the time the president of the Yankees, trying to avoid phone calls from his boss, George Steinbrenner, because Saban thought he was going to tell him to fire the team's general manager. The old Bills coach took me up to the roof of the Fort Lauderdale stadium on the pretext that we could see the launch scheduled for Cape Canaveral.

*Having a conversation with 15-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. in 1985 about his high-school football team, mighty Moeller of Cincinnati. Junior was in the Yankees camp to spend Easter break with his dad.

*Paul Hagan, the Eden native and longtime beat writer for the Phillies, greeting me with "Here comes Larry Felser, ready to do his yearly column on Dave Hollins." He was correct. The Orchard Park star was always good copy.

Larry Felser, former News columnist, appears in Sunday's editions.

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