Fishing and chill for Orioles' Chris Tillman at Ed Smith Stadium complex

SARASOTA, FLA. — Before getting a day's work in on the back fields of the Orioles' Ed Smith Stadium complex, pitcher Chris Tillman has a quiet tradition that affords him some of the serenity of the offseason while jump-starting his spring training preparation.

Tillman grabs a fishing pole that's leaned against the clubhouse wall, and sometimes a buddy, then trudges to an old pond just beyond one of the infields on the complex grounds for a morning fishing session.


"It's awesome," Tillman said. "I do it quite a bit. Even if I wasn't here, I'd be doing it. But I'm fortunate enough to have that right out the door. It's fun. It gives me something to do when I'm waiting for these knuckleheads to show up and work out. I've been doing it for three or four years now."

Tillman, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and closer Zach Britton are just a few of the established major league stars who are in Sarasota while over a dozen of the team's minor league pitchers work with the coaching staff to get a head start on spring training at the annual January minicamp.


The veterans are all in the "build-up stages," Tillman said, and he believes he's a bit ahead of schedule as the Feb. 18 report date for pitchers and catchers approaches. On Tuesday, Tillman walked through the weeds to the pond a bit before 9 a.m., with the cool morning air a bit chilly for both himself and the fish.

The pond has been there forever, Tillman said, though he has been told it used to be way better for fishing purposes. Now, it's full of small bass that manager Buck Showalter and third base coach John Russell arranged to have stocked in there by a conservation group two years ago.

"They've caught every fish in that pond," Showalter said. "Twice."

"I fish with Zach and Miguel quite a bit," Tillman said. "They're horrible, so I help them. Last year, I fished out there quite a bit with [Suk-min] Yoon, but he's gone now."

If he wanted to, Tillman could outfit everyone in the large spring training clubhouse with a rod to use, and he said you can't just go out there "with a pole from Toys 'R' Us and catch them."

Everyone fishes, he said, "but a lot of guys are nervous to go out there because they feel like they should be working. That's why I get here early."

The pitchers' fishing exploits are now commonplace around the facility, though there's plenty of work being done, too. They all played catch and worked out Tuesday, and might hold a long run for the group Wednesday.

And if there's time, they might spend a few minutes more at the pond that has become, to some, one of the main attractions of the team's spring training complex.


"It gives you something to do while you're sitting around," Tillman said. "There's a lot of waiting going on here right now, so it gives you something to play around with."