I’ve been able to watch some spring training games over this past week and it’s a welcome return and signals the end of a long winter despite the snow and cold which continues to stick around up here in the north. I’ve spent the week merely observing and enjoying the game for what it is instead of the analysis which will follow every game once the real season begins. It seems that everyone sitting in the stands at least for the first couple of weeks until things get serious has the same attitude.
The announcers seem to be in mid season form already and even the annoying trend over the past few seasons of hiring former major leaguers instead of actual skilled announcers making inane comments and talk far too much hasn’t been bothering me as much as it will during the regular season. Yup, that’s how good it is to see baseball once again.
But I digress. Spring baseball is fun especially from Florida. In addition to the sights and sounds of the game there are the beautiful palm trees, birds nesting on the light standards and lots of older folks dressed in the t shirt of their favorite team, shorts, sandals and sun glasses. Some sit religiously keeping score but most are simply happy to sit in the sun and enjoy the day.
Games from Arizona seem a little more formal and the desert to the casual observer doesn’t afford many opportunities to observe the surroundings such as they are or the wildlife. The game seems more mercenary somehow. Perhaps it’s the traditionalist in me but baseball in March in Florida just seems more like the real thing.
Of course in this early going, many of the players I have seen won’t be with the team in the next week or two and by the middle of spring training the veterans seem to be bored and anxious to head north and get on with regular season. Averages and ERA don’t seem to have the importance and scrutiny they have once the regular season begins. At least not to management. The majority of the big league jobs have already been penciled in and it is only the backup spots or injury replacements that remain to be decided for most teams. Players often work on certain aspects of their game and are not overly concerned with specific results. The rookies however, need to hit .400 or pitch nothing but shutouts if they hope to crack the roster. For them, spring training is anything but a paid vacation. They have to impress for later or a later season call up.
Spring training is also a time in which players, managers and umpires get along and no one sweats the details. A close call which in the regular season would at the very least elicit comments from the dugout is met with silence or only a smile. A blown call on the bases might call for an under the breath metaphor but usually little else. There is time enough for frank on field discussions once the season really begins. Umpires, players and managers can afford to laugh off a mistake now. Everyone is getting back into the swing of things.
Players in March are trying to get in baseball shape and avoid injuries. The bad season of last year is only a distant memory. A good season is something to build on. Umpires are getting used to the speed of the game. Managers are getting used to press conferences again. Fans are enjoying the sun and a vacation from the cold. Writers have something current to write about. Life makes sense once again.