“Hey, what’s with that picture you sent? I wasn’t hibernating. I didn’t just slumber. Nor did I crawl into a cave, sleep, and live off my fat… Did you?”
“No way! I spent plenty of time getting into really good shape. I mean I’m ready. I want to go! It’s time! It’s time!”
“Did you notice some of the guys saunter in like, you know, they’re all that?”
“I dunno. Really, it’s just a bunch of adults who turn into kids…. but any number of whom have a whole lot to prove.”
“Well, this afternoon, the owner of the local bowling alley, his daughter, is singing the National Anthem. That’s spring training buddy..”
Ahhhhhh, spring training…The world comes to life. The cold, the snow, the wet, the fog….it all lifts, and the sun says “I’m baaaaaaaack…” The flowers blink. The grass stretches. The fast ball meets the mitt.
“You do know Emily Dickenson wrote a poem about spring? It goes in part like this:
“A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period
When March is scarcely here…”
“Emily who? Is she part of the team? Does she have a good slider?”
“Oh boy, never mind!”
Ahem… Folks: All together now — let’s salute the grapefruit league: Florida, lots of citrus there!
Don’t forget the cactus league: Arizona, lots of cacti there!
Did you know the Brooklyn Dodgers trained in Havana, Cuba in 1947 and 1949, and in the Dominican Republic in 1948? The Yankees trained in Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the early1950s. In fact, in the 50s and 60s, some spring training camps and games were held in Hawaii, Puerto, Rico, and a variety of cities in Northern Mexico.
“You’re just a walking set of stats aren’t you?”
“Like stats aren’t key nowadays? You know what they say: You spring it… they will come.”
“On that note, I gotta go warm up… See you on the field.”
For fans, spring training feels as if life really and truly has finally come back. No wonder some treat spring training as a pilgrimage. The sense is that it is part of the natural order, akin to salmon swimming up stream.
And then, when we all get there, we sit back and relax. We have the “zen” baseball experience. The wins and losses are not important. The play is a big deal, particularly those who are most engaged in try-outs. Stretching, limbering, warming up, getting back into the groove, walking from the ball part to the club house, to the gym, milling with fans, milling with owners, milling with locals, milling with minor leaguers, milling…. lots and lots of milling.
There’s time to talk. Time to whittle a piece of wood. To tell stories. To wave at players. To get a nod back. To smile at the kids crawling on the dads and tugging on the moms. Time to just take a deep breath, to get ready for a very long season, the grind, the ups and downs, the real thing.
Me, well, I like lounging on the grass, along with sitting part of the time in the ball park. And, I really like to visit the various fields, the different team facilities scattered throughout.
Questions arise: Wanna check-out the ChiSox today? Angels later? How about the Giants? What yah want?
What yah lookin for?
I think a good way to put it is that spring training is like a barbecue without the charcoal.
The guys get to test their wings. It’s combat without the big edge.
If you have to put an imprimatur on it: Spring training is like the birds in the nest, learning how to fly, or remembering, and getting ready to take off, to leap into the air finally, to hopefully not fall to earth, to rise up, to soar, to insist to every one who is watching: The sky’s the limits! Watch me go!
Ok I got it: Spring training is a diving board. You jump up and down, and up and down, and up and down, and then, God willing all goes well, you land in the pool, swim to the other side, get out and find people handing you a towel and patting you on the back.
All I can really say is I am so glad it’s here. Winter always seems so very, very long.
Time to mill, time to get back into it.
Let’s go – slowly. Let’s go – let’s ease back into it. Bask in it, in the world coming back to the diamond.