Nassau, Bahamas and Orlando, Florida

Wednesday, February 25th - Wednesday, March 4th

A nice quick float around the Caribbean aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. This was the smallest ship in their fleet, but both Jill and I felt very comfortable aboard it. Our itinerary was:

27 February - Depart Port Canaveral - 5:00PM

28 February - Nassau, Bahamas - 11:00AM - 11:59PM

01 March - CoCo Cay, Bahamas - 8:00AM - 5:00PM

02 March - Arrive Port Canaveral - 8:00AM

March 2nd
New York Yankees 5 - Houston Astros 5

Astros at the plate: Geoff Blum drove in Houston's first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, plating Lance Berkman. Matt Kata knocked a solo homer off Anthony Clagett in the fifth, and Chris Johnson drove in two more runs with a hit in the eighth. Brian Bogusevic knocked in the game-tying run with an infield hit later in the inning.

Yankees at the plate: The Bombers jumped on Astros starter Mike Hampton immediately, plating three runs in the first inning and one in the second. Angel Berroa knocked a leadoff double in the second and scored on an RBI single by Melky Cabrera. Berroa knocked a solo homer off Russ Ortiz in the fourth.

Astros on the mound: Hampton was slated to throw three innings, but a high pitch count limited him to just two. Hampton yielded four runs on six hits, including an RBI triple by Cabrera that contributed to a three-run first. Jose Valverde struck out two in one inning, and Ortiz allowed one run over three frames.

Yankees on the mound: Chien-Ming Wang pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits without a walk or strikeout. Brett Tomko allowed one run in two frames.

Grapefruit League records: Astros 1-4-1; Yankees 2-3-1

Up next: The Yankees will have a different view of Derek Jeter on Tuesday, when they host Team USA in a 12:15 p.m. CT exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Jeter, the starting shortstop for the American squad in the World Baseball Classic, will face off against fellow Yankee Phil Hughes. Astros starter Roy Oswalt is scheduled to pitch for Team USA.

The Astros will make a three-hour drive to Port Charlotte, Fla., to meet the defending American League champion Rays at 12:05 p.m. Most of the veteran players will stay back and work out at Houston's home field in Kissimmee, Fla., but a familiar face will be on the mound -- right-hander Brandon Backe, who is set to make his second appearance of the Grapefruit League season.

March 3rd
Atlanta Braves 11 - Panama 2

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When he was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves organization, Bruce Chen didn't create the same kind of buzz that surrounds Tommy Hanson every time he steps on the mound.

While helping the Braves claim an 11-2 win over Panama in a World Baseball Classic exhibition game on Tuesday afternoon at Champion Stadium, Hanson further proved why he's considered one of the game's top pitching prospects.

In the first of its three pre-Classic exhibition games, Panama was introduced to the live right arm of Hanson, who allowed one unearned run and two hits in three innings. Each of his three strikeouts came during the first inning.

"I thought he looked really good today," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's fun to watch."

While Hanson stole the early spotlight, Minor League outfielder Jason Heyward showed why he's also considered one of the game's top prospects when he drilled a two-run eighth-inning homer off Panama's Manuel Campos.

Baseball America recently ranked Hanson as the game's fourth-best prospect, and the 19-year-old Heyward was positioned directly behind him in the fifth spot.

Coming back from Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery, Chen was charged with four runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old left-hander exited during the middle of a four-run second inning that was capped by Greg Norton's RBI double.

Chen, who pitched in Atlanta from 1998-2000, is scheduled to start on Saturday, when Panama opens the Classic against Puerto Rico. He impressed Cox with his new three-quarter-arm delivery.

"He might do something again," Cox said. "He looked confident out there on the mound. I thought he looked good."

Hanson needed just seven pitches to strike out the first two batters that he faced. After surrendering a two-out single to Angel Chavez, he ended the inning by getting Carlos Lee to look at a fastball on the outside corner.

While facing the Astros in his Grapefruit League debut last week, Hanson also got Lee to look at a called third strike.

Concepcion Rodgriguez, an outfielder in the Braves' farm system, began the third inning with a single off Hanson and later scored when Kelly Johnson made an errant throw while attempting to turn what would have been an inning-ending double play.

Chen, who signed a Minor League contract with the Royals last week, exited after surrendering a second-inning RBI single to Omar Infante. This prompted the entry of Yeliar Castro, a 21-year-old Braves Minor League pitcher, who was charged with one run and two hits in 2 1/3 innings.

"It was good for some of the guys to get out there and see this kind of pitching," Panama catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "We need to get conditioned for the Classic, and these games will help."

Trip Notes:

On Wednesday night February 25th we stayed at the Radisson Hotel Rochester; cost for the night was $90.29; stayed in room 429.

On Thursday night February 26th we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village; cost for the night was $106.87

The total cost for the cruise was $1184.22; we stayed in a junior suite, JS-1046, aboard the Monarch of the Seas

On Wednesday night March 3rd we stayed at the Knights Inn - Liverpool; cost for the night as $55.94; stayed in room 203.

Our tickets for the Braves game were Section 107, Row M, Seats 1-2.