Monday, March 2, 2009

Spring Training for all

People ask me what I do in the winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.
—Rogers Hornsby

It takes skill, this following baseball. I mean following a single game, in progress. It takes practice. It takes training. Especially following a game on the radio, which I do a lot living out here in the Rocky Mountain West, where most of my baseball fixes are injected either through or via XM Radio.

So while the dreary, dragging days of February at long-blessedly-last fade into the rebirth and reawakening that we call March, my favorite teams are at last in spring training -- The Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla., the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., and the Rockies in Tucson.

And while they're in spring training, so am I.

I mean getting this football-softened brain back into shape -- working hard on my ability to maintain a running consciousness of the status of a ball game whilst keeping up the pace of my multitasking of daily work and life. It takes me a few weeks before my mental dexterity returns to its major-league game-ready regular-season agility. So I'm thankful for those few weeks of spring training games to work on my own game.

(And this year we'll also have the World Baseball Classic to tide us over until Major League Baseball kicks off on April 5.)

But the reward for this spring training is more than merely sharpening my mental game-tracking skills, of course -- just the same way that the joy of following those Grapefruit League and Cactus League games is more than just notching the (relatively) meaningless wins and losses.

Spring training is about ... Spring!

So when I tune my browser to a pre-season Red Sox game from the humble City of Palms Park, or click my XM receiver to a second-string-players match-up between the Cubs and Rockies in the ever-summer climes of Arizona, sure, I'm rooting for each at bat. And, yes, I'm working on my ability to follow the game while I do my work, since games that matter are only a few weeks away (and work never goes away).

But, really, what I'm doing is listening to music, like some cool jazz, feeling the groove, tuning in to the musical soundtrack of Spring itself.

With the lyrical intonations of a Joe Castiglione, or Ron Santo, or Jeff Kingery on vocals.

It's music to my frost-bitten ears.

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