The weather is a little warmer. The sun is a little brighter. The grass is a little greener and the trees have begun to grow new leaves. Newspapers and sports websites have begun publishing baseball news that you actually want to read. A new season of baseball is upon us. Spring training is here, it’s that time of year.
Everyone’s team gets a chance at a do over. Everyone thinks their team is going to be better this year. Heck I even read where Pittsburgh Pirates fans are excited this year. My family is fortunate in that we live in Florida. I have been attending Florida spring training games for well over 40 years. And no matter if I were to attend spring training games for another 40 years the feeling is the same every year.
This year our first game was in Port Charlotte. We watched the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins play an afternoon game. We arrived at the park an hour or so before the game started. It’s not like we had to be there early to get tickets, we just like to soak in the atmosphere. That’s what a lifelong love affair with baseball will do to you. We pay $10 to park our vehicle and walk about a quarter of a mile to the ticket window. We were all set to pay $10 a ticket to get in when a young man offered us three for $20. Of course we took them and walked into the ballpark.
The smell of ballpark food filled the air. As we walked up the ramps I got as excited as I always have in anticipation of seeing the field. I wasn’t disappointed. The grass was emerald green and perfectly manicured. The sky was cloudless and the sun very bright. Fans and players lathered themselves up with sunscreen. The teams were taking batting practice and for that moment all seemed right in the world. That’s what baseball does to you.
We are Rays fans and we hurried down the first base line to catch a glimpse of our favorite players as they walked by. The great thing about spring training facilities in Florida is that the proximity of the field and players to the fans is closer than in big-league ballparks. One by one, players came out and almost all greeted fans with a friendly wave or came over to sign autographs and chat with the fans. Everyone seemed happy for different reasons, but the point is everyone seemed happy. That’s what baseball does to you.
We sat on the right-field grass berm soaking up the sun and enjoying the game. As is a custom for many baseball fans we talked aimlessly about baseball. Who is going to be good, who is going to be disappointing? We asked each other baseball trivia questions. The food cost way too much and of course the beverages were overpriced. But, for some reason that doesn’t seem to bother you near as much when you’re at a baseball game. That’s what baseball does to you.
The outcome of the game wasn’t in our favor. But that’s the great thing about baseball. Tomorrow is another day and you get to play again. It’s a lot like life really. That’s what baseball does to you.