Sports Commentary: Spring is in the air

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At least spring training is!

By Mike Forster


Ah, springtime!

"Wait," you might be thinking.  "Spring is still a couple of weeks away."

True, according to folks who figure such things out, spring doesn't become official until March 20.  That's when the Vernal Equinox takes place.

For the non-scientific among you, let me explain in a fashion that mimics exam answers from my college days: The Vernal Equinox takes place when springtime arrives.  In fact, the Vernal Equinox is a critical component of the arrival of the spring season.  In fact, it can safely be stated that, absent the Vernal Equinox, there is no springtime.

In other words, as my college professors could deduce from my answers, I have no idea what the Vernal Equinox is.

I do know, however, that spring comes early for some.  That's because, Vernal Equinox or no, they head down to Florida for some spring training baseball.  I've made that trip in past years.

At this point, you may be thinking one of two things:

a)  Is the buck I spent on this newspaper being used to fund such an excursion?

b)  I wonder if there's something more entertaining to read in this newspaper?

I can answer the first question.  I go to Florida as a civilian.  While I did (of course) try to weasel my boss into funding those excursions, he wouldn't bite.  He pointed out that he'd already foots the bill for my big trips to State wrestling at Salem, and that he was not made of gold.

So I make the journey as a civilian.  As to the second question, in true partisan fashion, I give a resounding "No!"

First, a bit of background on this whole spring training thing.  It's been around pretty much since the start of modern Major League Baseball.  Half of MLB's 30 teams train in Florida, with the other half heading to Arizona.

It used to be that the players, coaches and team staff looked forward to spring training as a major league boondoggle.

Sure, some training took place and games were played.  Yes, (most of) the teams came out of spring training ready for the regular season.

But while the fundamentals of baseball were embraced, such things as sobriety, piety and chastity were tossed aside.

It was a six-week boisterous and bacchanalian bash for notorious party monsters such as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, not to pick on the Yankees.

My trips to Florida are slightly less wild.  For starters, unlike those players of yore, I bring along the wife.

Still, we cut loose in St. Pete, including going out of doors without applying sunscreen; getting both pepperoni and garlic on a pizza; and going swimming on the last day of February.

I know:  That's nuts.

We do enjoy spring training, though.  It's a more intimate setting, with fans mingling with the players.

Most of those fans are in a fairly laid-back mode.  But not all.

A few years ago, I went to a game with the wife's cousin's husband (my cousin-in-law?).  It was a Mets-Cardinals game, early on the spring slate.

The New York fans stood out to me.  It wasn't their Mets' attire.  Nor was it their distinctive (and annoying) accents.

No, it was the fact that on nearly every single play they would rain down harsh insults on some poor Met.  Ah, I guess even fans have to get into regular-season form.

Another troubling aspect.  It seems we frequently wind up at Blue Jays' games.  The big question for me is:  What do I do with my hat during the playing of the Canadian national anthem?

Of course I'll remove my hat as I greatly respect our neighbor to the north.  Canada is our best buddy, after all.

But placing my hat over my heart signifies my devotion to Canada.  I can't do that, since I'm devoted to the U.S. of A.

As I do, however, love Canadian bacon and Canadian beer, I compromise by putting said hat over my tummy.  I like to think my Canuck friends would understand.

So, if you're one of the lucky folks heading down to Florida this month, I'm envious:  I know you'll get to enjoy yourself.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a member of the New York Mets.