"The Show", American League, Angel Stadium, baseball, Cactus League, Dodger Stadium, Grapefruit League, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, MLB, National League, Spring Training, World Series
Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick and his Angels counterpart, Johnny Giavotella, involved in a force out play during a game at Dodger Stadium last season. Photo courtesy of gettyimages.com
WITH EXHIBITION GAMES STARTING TODAY IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL, HERE ARE SOME MUSINGS FROM A DIE-HARD FAN REGARDING THIS ENTITY WE CALL SPRING TRAINING…
As someone who has considered baseball his favorite sport for nearly forty years, I’ve always felt a sense of gladness when March arrived as though it’s not quite the start of the regular season,
The preparation of such starts in earnest as the 30 teams playing Major League Baseball begin their exhibition game schedules.
Not that I jump up and down in glee or sulk at the scores that the Dodgers or the Angels put up this time of year as they are essentially practice games, but those games signify the fact that in 34 days from this writing, our country’s national pastime (sorry, football) will commence with its 141st season.
For fans like me, spring training is always an exciting time.
We get to watch guys like Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, and Mike Trout start with clean slates, trying to lead their teams to a spot in the World Series seven months hence.
And often times, if you are able to journey to the training camps in Arizona and Florida – Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix) in the Dodgers’ case and nearby Tempe Diablo Stadium in the Angels’ – you get to see Kershaw, Trout, and company up close as they prepare for the season, perhaps running into them and getting an autograph or a selfie in an intimate way that you’re not able to do once the games start counting in April and the ballparks get bigger.
There’s no real pressure for us, either, as the games don’t count in the standings and once Opening Day arrives – April 4th this year – win-loss records in the Cactus League (Arizona) and the Grapefruit League (Florida) mean absolutely nothing as teams that have ended up with the World Series trophy in October have often fared poorly in March.
Plus the tickets are cheap compared to how much they would go for at Dodger Stadium or Angel Stadium.
As for the players, however…
Unless you are a big-name guy with a guaranteed contract and are in the prime of your career, spring training is a stress-inducing time for one simple reason:
You’re trying to get a job.
And players have it easy today compared to how it was in the 1960s and before, when even guys who batted .300 and made good contributions to their teams would often get demoted to the minors or released outright if the manager felt that they lost a step or found someone better.
Even now in the 21st century, players whom you read have signed “Minor League contracts with an invitation to spring training” in the sports page – that’s a glorified way of saying they have been invited to nothing more than a tryout.
And if they don’t show the brass something significant within the first two weeks or so, they are the first to get called into the manager’s office, asked to sit down, and told,
“This is the part of the job that managers hate, but we have to let you go.”
Just like that scene in the classic movie “Bull Durham” when the manager told that guy, “The organization has decided to make a change…”
Angels pitcher Garrett Richards in a throwing session, with manager Mike Scioscia (left) and fellow starting pitcher Jered Weaver (right) looking on. Photo courtesy of ctpost.com
That is a very common scene this time of year, as careers and dreams of being in “The Show” often end in those skipper’s offices.
Even though I understand that it’s a part of the game that must be done, I always feel sympathy for those players whenever I read about them being cut in the papers.
As such, as much as this time of year is often difficult for the players, we fans tend to forget about that and watch the spring training games with eagerness and anticipation for the season to start; I am no exception there.
So while we should keep in the mind the guys who are fighting for their livelihoods on those diamonds, we should also feel glad that baseball is back.
I know I am.
Clayton Kershaw (#22) and some of his fellow Dodger pitchers heading for a workout at Camelback Ranch. Photo courtesy of lapostexaminer.com