Ah, spring training. Thank you for being back. The return of baseball in Arizona and Florida means more than simply the return of my favorite game. It means that spring is near, that the seemingly endless winter will finally be wrapping itself up, with possibly a few more deep freezes and dumps of snow. But, since baseball is back, we know that it will be one of the last deep freezes, one of the last dumps of snow.
There are many things to love about spring training. The countdown to the appearances of pitchers and catchers, and the discussion among fans about how a certain pitcher seems to be getting healthier, as he was throwing from 200 feet today. Mundane facts, but a great time to see baseball played by people who love to play baseball, and are fighting for their lives to make their teams. Even to make it to the high minors, this is their chance to shine.
No, you aren’t going to see tons of the superstars. They will play sparingly for the majority of training. Their roster spots are assured, and they are only here to shake off the rust, get the timing back down, and get ready for the marathon season that they are about ready to embark on.
It was not so long ago that the Boston Red Sox were hoisting another World Series trophy. At the same time, it has been far too long since the thrilling nights in October.
New teammates will bond. Men will watch a child’s game from the dugout, chewing on their spits and tobacco, enjoying the sun shining down on them, as they can look forward to another summer spent in the most glorious of summer locations: the ballpark.
Spring training brings about everything that is new in the year. New players, new teams, new stories. There will be controversy, and there will be a rookie who turns a ton of heads. There will probably be a significant free agent signing, as there are still a couple of strong players out there. A veteran who is about to embark on one final season, another who has held on too long, but is playing for love of the game.
At this point in the year, and in a major league landscape where parity is more common, every team has a chance. Well, okay, the Astros do not have a chance, but there is always that optimism that each and every team can overachieve, that they can be like the miracle Rays team that goes all the way to the World Series. That they can be like the Cleveland Indians last year, making a huge turnaround, truly gel as a team and make it to the playoffs. Can there be another story this season like the Pittsburgh Pirates rising from the ashed of 20 years of futility? Can they even repeat their own story?
With the coming of the spring, there is hope. There is hope that this summer will be better than the last, that you accomplish everything that you want to. You will go camping, and you will go on a road trip, and you will have beers on the patio into the night because the weather is beautiful. And you will again get to the ballpark. To sit, and enjoy, and eat a hotdog, drink a beer. To feel the waning heat of a summer’s day warming your flesh, giving way to the warm evening of summer. Hearing the crack of the bat as the sun sets over right field, watching the smoke of the shale as someone slides into home.
Baseball is summer. And summer is on its way back.