This is the first year in forever that I’m not attending spring training as a member of the media. I thought I’d be a bit twitchy, missing the sun and laid-back atmosphere and the soundâ€”a truly sweet sound, cliche be damnedâ€”of baseball hitting glove.
But I’m not twitchy. It was time. Truth be told, it was time many years ago. When I first started covering the game for Sports Illustrated in the mid-to-late 1990s, spring training was my favorite thing in the world. The magazine rented out condos in Tampa and Tempe, and a rotation of writers would stay for a week or two. It’d be me, Tom Verducci, Steve Cannella, Dan Habib, Jamal Greene, Mark Bechtel, a little Phil Taylor or Steve Rushin tossed in. I dug waking up early, driving to, say, Pirates or Reds camp, eating breakfast with the local writers, then casually strolling into a clubhouse. It wasn’t like the regular season, when ballplayers hid. No, in spring people are still feeling good. Need Shawn Green? Just go get himâ€”he’s sitting there reading a magazine. Want some time with Gary Sheffield? Well, join him for breakfast. No biggie.
You’d be done byâ€”at the absolute latestâ€”4; free to spend the evening having a nice dinner, catching a movie, whatever.
So what changed for me? To be honest, I simply grew tired of chasing around athletes. Especially athletes who were significantly younger than I was. I can’t explain this very well, because I’ve never met a journalist who shares this take. But I no longer felt the joy in jotting down the words of some half-brained 22-year-old reliever for the Tigers who wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. The splendor of spring was tarred by the weight of spring. I began to think of it not as a rebirth, but a returnâ€”to boring baseball cliches and never-ending games and an increasingly arrogant generation of players.
So here I sit, in Cosi, happy.
Plus, it’s 55 degrees.Â 🙂
PS: Funny spring story. Went to dinner with Phil Taylor in Arizona one night. We were at the table, ordering our food, when out of nowhere the waitress started telling us about the loose lips on her vagina. Now, when I talk or e-mail with Phil, I ask him how his vagina lips are doing.