there a more glorious calendar entry in the entire world
than “Pitchers and Catchers Report”? With
the opening of Major League Baseball’s training
camps in Florida and Arizona the world takes yet another
step towards the eventual thaw of spring.
and catchers showing up to start knocking off the rust
means that soon there will be baseball games again. Soon
there will be nightly shots of young baseball wanna-be’s
on ESPN trying to impress grizzled old managers on picture
perfect baseball diamonds under a warm sun. Soon every
baseball writer in the country will be filing stories
with bylines from places like Kissimmee or Port St. Lucie
to spring training has been among the best experiences
of my life as a sports fan. In order to get there, for
all but the fans of a few teams, you have to take vacation.
In a lot of cases, that vacation is also an escape from
terrible weather back home. The games are mostly played
during the day, in the most relaxed atmosphere possible.
At night, particularly in Phoenix, at dinner or at a club
you run into people that you sat near at a game that day.
players are so close that you could reach out and touch
them. Most of them sign autographs. All of them are near
enough to really be able to tell their physical condition
(or lack thereof in the case of some pitchers). The games
don’t count for anything, but the games are secondary
right from the start. Spring training is all about the
where young women sun themselves in bikinis in the outfield
while young men – and old and middle-aged ones,
too – behind home plate pass binoculars around an
entire section so that everyone can have a look. It’s
where you can watch major league players suit up in stadiums
that often are too small even for a minor league team.
It’s where you can see the hot young prospects get
their first look at the dawn of their career. It’s
where you can yell something at A-Rod and know full well
that he heard you because almost everyone in the stadium
it’s also where you can spend time wondering which
players are juicing or which ones just stopped thanks
to baseball’s new steroid testing policy. Or debating
the pending legal case against this player or that. Or
wondering when a given player from Latin America will
iron out his visa issues and make it to camp.
though the baseball discussions are largely positive,
with fans looking forward to the season ahead. There are
endless discussions about fantasy teams and who’s
going to start at third base and whether a pitcher will
be in the fourth or fifth slot in the rotation. Going
to spring training is all about getting a head start on
knowing your team and its competition. Seeing the new
players that were signed or traded for and trying to project
how many home runs they’ll hit over the short right
field wall in the team’s home park.
year spring training will be about Ken Griffey Jr. trying
to stay healthy for the first time this century. Wondering
whether Barry Bonds will talk to anyone all season. Checking
out Randy Johnson in Yankees’ pinstripes. The Boston
and New York media hunting for any Yankee or Red Sox player
that is willing to talk a little Trot Nixon style smack.
The national media trying to find something to talk about
besides the Yankees and Red Sox. John Smoltz returning
to his role as a starting pitcher. Carlos Beltran and
Pedro Martinez trying to cure Mets fans of their inferiority
complex. Roger Clemens suiting up for his absolutely,
positively, he-really-means-it-this-time last spring training.
And checking out the old Expos players in their new Washington
stories change every year but the excitement and underlying
meaning never do. Soon I’ll be able to drive with
the windows rolled down while a play-by-play announcer
tells me about the “3-2 pitch” on its way
to the plate. Soon I’ll be able to sit in a stadium
on a warm afternoon or just cool enough evening, eating
a hot dog and watching a game with winter’s snow
and cold just a distant memory.
to those wonderful pitchers and catchers that have reported
for duty, I now have faith that soon I won’t be
scraping ice off of my windshield every morning.
it will be spring. Soon the baseball season will start.
can’t happen soon enough.
McCullin is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)