Spring Training Is A Time For The Eternal Optimists Of The World
Coming Soon Whether You Are Ready or Not
Spring Training begins soon for all Major League Teams. Pitchers and catchers will report to teams training facilities in Arizona and Florida between February 10-13, and all position players will be in camp between February 13-17.
In other words, it is time for those of us who are eternal optimists to dust off our cleats, break in our new gloves, and begin explaining to anyone who will listen why our team is going to the World Series.
Do you doubt that I am an eternal optimist? Consider this: I am a Seattle Mariners fan and right now I am a true believer.
In the last eight seasons Seattle has had a winning season twice.
In the last four seasons they have twice lost 101 games.
Seattle has never been to the World Series. Never in thirty-four years.
Yes, I am an eternal optimist, because this could be their year.
Across the Country the Dream Is Alive
It makes no difference where your team placed in the standings last year, or the year before, or if they are perennial losers or perennial winners. Every year in February fans take a look at the rosters and the off-season player moves and they convince themselves that this will be the year. The rationalizations go something like this:
· Well, that guy hit .230 last year and led the League in errors, but I think a change of scenery is just what the doctor ordered and hey, he’ll fit in well with our ball club.
· He was a hell of a pitcher ten years ago, and I think in our heavy air he’ll be able to squeeze one more year out of his arm.
· I know he was a pain in the ass with the Yankees, but everyone is a pain in the ass with the Yankees. His off-field problems won’t happen here in our beautiful city.
· Sure he only hit five homers for Chicago, but look at the teammates that surrounded him. You put him in our lineup and his bat will wake up big time.
· This is our year. Nobody is looking at us and we’ll sneak up on the rest of the League.
And on and on it goes. Pipe dreams at best; delusional at worst; welcome to Baseball in America!
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Spring Training Fuels the Dreams
Batting averages soar in spring training as pitchers throw at 75% and work to find the corners on a plate that seems to have diminished in size over the winter months. Lifetime .250 hitters are suddenly hitting at a Ted Williams level and with their rising averages go our expectations.
“11-2 in the Cactus League so far. There’s no stopping us this year!”
Never mind that all they have faced so far are minor league invitees and veterans who creak getting out of bed. They are 11-2 and visions of the World Series are dancing in their beer-soaked brains.
Lest you think it’s just the fans who are drinking the magic dream potion, check out the comments from team players and managers during Spring Training.
· “Anything can happen and often does. We all put our cleats on the same way, and it ain’t over till it’s over.”
· “It’s a pretty simple game. Pitch the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. If we play to our capabilities we will be alright.”
· “Look at the Giants last year. Nobody expected that, and if it can happen to them it can happen to us.”
· “We have a bunch of good young players and we are expecting big things from them this year.”
Spring Training Vacation Packages
Don Henley's Boys of Summer
And Then Reality Rears Its Ugly Head
The first pitch of the new season is delivered, and it is deposited 420 feet over left-center wall, and suddenly those young players we counted on so dearly are still a year away from the Bigs, and that veteran presence is nothing more than a weight around our necks, and it turns out the Giants won last year because they had talent and not an over-abundance of potential.
Shortly after the All Star game the guys who are actually hitting above .275 are being traded, and minor league players are being called up to see if they are ready yet, and our sights are squarely set on….next year and Spring Training.
And so it goes! Before reality arrives, we all have Spring Training and unbridled hope for the future. Until that first pitch is thrown, my Mariners are the equal of every other team in baseball, and that makes me happy. As I stare out the window at the rain and wind, my hopes and dreams are in Peoria, Arizona, where my boys of summer are getting ready to beat the odds and prove the world wrong.
For the next two months all will be right in the world of baseball fans. The ugliness and cold of winter is forgotten. The rising debt and threats from sinister forces are pushed out of our minds and we embrace America’s game, for baseball has always been the quintessential Feel Good Machine.
It’s been that way since 1876 and it will be that way this year as well, and I, for one, find great comfort in that fact.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)