What’s Not to Love about Spring Training

Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, March 7, 2008

I love early Spring Training.

I love the names “Cactus League” and “Grapefruit League.”

I love the proximity of the stadiums for Cactus League, nearly all within a 30-minute drive from one another.

I love the split-squad games.

I love the early afternoon play-by-play broadcasts with announcers eagerly telling life stories of players who may never attain that first Major League at-bat.

I love the early March box-scores with the long lists of surnames on each side of the ledger, only a third of which I may be familiar with.

I love the crazy routs, like Oakland’s 23-5 laugher over San Francisco.

I love the wild slugfests, like Cincinnati’s 12-11 squeaker over Pittsburgh, and San Diego and Baltimore taking identical 11-10 decisions from Seattle and Washington respectively in games that all included dramatic ninth inning comebacks from both teams.

I love the Diamondbacks and White Sox playing in Hermosillo, Mexico; there’s no more proper time for Major League baseball to expand and tour than spring training, a tradition dating back to Chicago legend Cap Anson.

I love that the Mexico Diablos Rojos defeated the Colorado Rockies and that the University of Michigan played to a tie with the New York Mets (in a game that featured Mets closer Billy Wagner threatening to throw at a Wolverine who dared bunt on him); and I also love the Boston Red Sox thrashing Northeastern and Boston College in split-squad games on the same day by a combined 39-0.

I love that the St. Louis Cardinals played the Saint Louis University Billikens and that University of Miami (Florida) Hurricanes took on the Florida (and likely soon to be Miami) Marlins.

I love seeing two scoreless innings from Atlanta’s Mike Hampton in his first mound showing since August of 2005.

I love seeing a revitalized 39-year-old Bret Boone in the starting lineup for the Washington Nationals after earlier divulging his sudden post-2006 retirement was due to alcoholism… and knowing his brother Aaron and father Bob are at his side in Nats red and white.

I love seeing 45-year-old Jamie Moyer continuing to spin scoreless innings for Philadelphia, while 43-year-old Kenny Rogers shows no hint of losing effectiveness for Detroit.

I love the two-run double from Reds phenom Jay Bruce and the two-run triple from Rays phenom Evan Longoria over the weekend.

I love the promise of young Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, lending optimism to a team in need of new stars and new hopes.

I love the potential of a clean bill of health of the Twins’ Francisco Liriano, the Brewers’ Ben Sheets, and the Cubs’ Kerry Wood, however tenuous it may be.

I love the National League West starter tandems of Arizona’s Brandon Webb and Danny Haren, Colorado’s Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook, San Diego’s Jake Peavy and Chris Young, and San Francisco’s Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.  Los Angeles All-Star Brad Penny deserves mention, too, along with whoever steps up beside him.

I love the heated competition at stake for the Rangers outfield slots and the relaxed comfort of the Angels four-man outfield rotation.

I love the inclusion in Saturday’s Associated Press game recap of the Dodgers/Mets game of Penny’s early exit from the stadium in order to fly to Ohio with his father “to watch a friend compete in an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout.”

I love the relief caused by Mark DeRosa’s return to the Cubs, three days after needing a surgery for an irregular heartbeat he has had since his teen years.

I love the three-run homer current Cardinal Juan Gonzalez crushed against Johan Santana… not that it was a surprise.  Believe it or not, the former MVP is a ridiculous 6-for-7 with two home runs in his career against baseball’s top southpaw.

I love Boston principal owner John Henry inducting Yankees part-owner Hank Steinbrenner into Red Sox Nation with a “membership card giving him access to an array of options including [the] newsletter, bumper stickers, pins, Green Monster seats and a hat personally autographed by David Ortiz.”

[And] I love not having to mention a certain left-handed slugger or Texan right-hander… because the theater of baseball is not a cold courtroom.  It’s a sun-warmed diamond.

2008 PER Sports, Inc.

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