To whet your appetite: Some action from a Dodgers-Angels game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim
For nearly forty years, ever since the 1977 World Series – the one where Reggie Jackson broke Dodger fans’ hearts with his three home runs in Game Six to secure the New York Yankees’ 21st championship (out of 27) – I have considered baseball to be my all-time favorite sport.
My involvement in baseball, along with softball, has been extensive as I have done everything in the sport; playing it up until my high school years (with mixed results as my throwing ability proved to be quite sub-par), coaching it for over two decades (mostly with two little league organizations in the Los Angeles, CA area) as I worked with all levels from T-Ball to high school-age, and serving as an umpire (with likewise bad results as I couldn’t take the arguing).
I have also played intramural softball in college and pick-up softball with various folks for nearly twenty years, and continue to do so even though I’m approaching my late forties and my joints and muscles seem to ache more and more with each passing season.
And have been to Dodger Stadium roughly fifty times since the first time I saw the Dodgers in person – June 18, 1978, my 11th birthday.
I can safely say that I have immensely enjoyed my involvement in the game as I liken it to a big old comfortable blanket that I can snuggle in when it’s cold; baseball has that kind of effect on me after almost four decades.
What I’m getting at is this…
Right about now is the time where fans get a sense of good feeling due to the fact that throughout Florida and Arizona, Spring Training is beginning as pitchers and catchers from the thirty teams in Major League Baseball are reporting to their respective camps.
For fans like me, this is the best time of the year as for those thirty teams, including the two that call Southern California home – the Angels and the team I’ve been a fan of since age ten, the Dodgers – it’s a new beginning.
A clean slate.
With everyone having a record of 0-0 and a chance at the pennant.
On the flip side, unless you’re a superstar or otherwise a veteran with a multi-year contract and a regular in your team’s lineup, this is a most stressful time as the next six weeks will not only determine whether or not you’ll be spending the next six months in “The Show” or some itty bitty town where a crowd of 1,500 for a game is considered big…
It may well determine if you’re going to get a paycheck for playing baseball at all.
As for L.A’s two teams…
More action between the Angels and the Dodgers from the 2011 season
Until a few days ago there were no significant developments outside of the usual questions of how life without slugger Matt Kemp and speedster Dee Gordon would be for the Dodgers or life without longtime Angel Howie Kendrick (who’s now a Dodger) would be for that Orange County club.
Then word got out that the Dodgers’ closer, Kenley Jansen, would miss the first month of the season because of foot surgery.
Which even though the team added several new relievers who are young with fresh arms, alters things a bit for the team who one source is projecting to win around 90 games.
Even though losing Jensen is undoubtedly a blow, I don’t think Dodger fans will panic too much as it’s far too early and the optimism that goes along with the opening of Spring Training is too great.
The biggest issue for me personally is something that’s the biggest issue for 70% of the folks in SoCal:
The lack of the Dodgers on TV as the team and Time Warner Cable are still miles and miles apart on a television deal with Direct TV and other cable companies.
Which means that I and around seven million other folks remain deprived of watching and listening to the greatest broadcaster in the history of sports, Vin Scully.
Since I don’t anticipate a breakthrough in that issue anytime soon, I’ll have to keep myself content with going to a submarine sandwich place across the street from where I live if I want to catch the Dodgers on TV.
Assuming they still carry Time Warner Cable (I certainly hope they do!).
In the meantime, I, along with millions of others, are very much looking forward to seeing how things go in Spring Training; who stands out amonst the rookies, who makes the various clubs among the numerous non-roster invitees – many of whom, like Barry Zito of the Oakland A’s, are longtime veterans attempting to stay in the bigs.
And who realizes that their time is over and hangs them up because their skills have diminished that much, like former Dodger closer extraordinaire Eric Gagne a few years ago when he left camp early in March after an outing where batters were teeing off of him like he was Charlie Brown.
I suppose there’s nothing more to say for the moment, save for this:
After watching tall guys bounce, shoot and dunk an orange ball and not-as-tall guys skate on a large sheet of ice with large curved sticks in their hands for five months, it will be very nice to see people try to throw a ball by someone who’s trying to smack the heck out of it with a bat in the sunshine.
Angels first baseman and slugger Albert Pujols holding a Dodger on during a Spring Training game