Spring Training is about upon us, and not a moment too soon if you ask most baseball players and fans. Soon legions of Texas Rangers fans will make the pilgrimage to Surprise, Arizona to see their favorite team get ready for the glorious baseball season. But if you go this year I challenge you to do more than go to a game. The games are fun to watch but spring training is more than the games.
My two favorite times to go to spring training is the first week when the pitchers and catchers arrive and the week when the minor leaguers come. The energy in these two times is palpable. The feeling of invincibility is so strong you think you can do anything just because the players feel it too. Spring Training is the moment of ultimate possibilities.
When you go to Surprise take the time to at least one day get there early. Watch the players come in to the complex. In that moment, despite the fabulous cars, they are not that different than you. Never will you have a better chance to talk to the players and possibly have a real conversation than in Spring Training. Because let’s face it, most baseball players are the biggest baseball fans, they love the sport as much as you do.
Take the time to one day walk around the back fields. You will see stuff that truly shows you the depths that the players go to get ready for the season. You may see your favorite pitcher throwing a bullpen session. Or you may see a simulated game. If you don’t know the difference between a fastball, a curve ball or a changeup you will after a day in the back fields.
Go when the minor leaguers are there. It may be the only time that you get to see them this year. The great thing about when they are in camp two teams may be on the road but the remainder will be at Surprise. You will see 17 year old international talent kids all the way to ex major leaguers trying hard for one more chance to get into the show. See Jurickson Profar in person, watch him hit, if you can watch him take batting practice you won’t be let down.
Make yourself go to one of the first games in spring training. Don’t think you will see your favorite player play the entire game, because you won’t. What you will see if just about every player on the roster have a chance to play. Don’t worry about keeping score if that’s your thing because it will be a futile measure. Take notes if you want, it may help you with players that you are not familiar with yet.
If you have children, beyond infants and toddlers, take them. They will remember it always. They will get more autographs than they can imagine, if they want. Or they can spend all day chasing down foul balls. And let them meet their favorite player if you can help it. That moment when your child can meet their idol can help make their childhood, and maybe it can make your list of your most favorite memories of your child.
Bring your camera. There will be memories that you will want to capture, because Spring Training can get into your blood. It’s like a virus that rages every year and nothing, and I mean nothing can help you until you see it again. And when that urge is sated the next thing is Opening Day and then the marvelous season that is to come.
Maybe this whole piece is too romantic, but its baseball. And it’s hard not be romantic about baseball.