Friday, January 04, 2008

The Bleak Mid-Winter

As the embers in my fireplace burned into the early morning, I poured over statistics in the latest release of Baseball America's 2008 Almanac. It was frigid outside and the bitter wind could be heard whistling in the night air. I smelled the musky smoke and heard the cackle of the fire and realized that we are entering the coldest two months of the year. Two months of coats and hats, gloves and scarves. Two months that are barren of baseball and where Sportscenter features stories on hockey and horseshoes. But, much like the warm fire in the cold arctic air, I had my XM radio. My little electronic device that brings me talk about baseball every day, every minute, and every second of the year - if only I choose to listen.

I fired up the gadget and on this particular night the talk was of Roger Clemens' possible steroid use and of the recent trade of Nick Swisher from the Oakland A's to the Chicago White Sox. Ahhh... the warmth of baseball.

While I listened to the voices talking at me about prospects and performance enhancing drugs, my mind drifted to our upcoming trip to Spring Training. I've gone twice before. The first time it was just Dad and me. The second time, we took Pap along.

Actually - now that I think about it - this will be the fifth "baseball trip" with my father. The first one was in 1988 or 1989 when my father and I drove around the mid-west and took in an Indian's game at old Municipal Stadium, a White Sox game in their brand new Comiskey II, and we tried to tune into Bucco games over the AM radio in our rental car as we drove through the night in far off cities. We took a train back from Chicago and got to ride in a sleeper car, realizing that it was less glamorous than we had expected and much more uncomfortable. Our second trip was more than 10 years later - after my graduation from college. We went to a bunch of parks along the east coast including The Vet, Shea, Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Camden Yards, then we headed west to Wrigley, and Jacob's Field - stopping in Williamsport for the Little League World Series along the way. Our two trips to spring training followed that.

As the years pass, I wish I had a better chronicle of each of our trips. What stands out in my mind the most about our spring training trips was the Bloody Marys that Pap ordered us at a local bar in Tampa, the Mustang convertible that we rented, and the college hoops that we watched in our hotel room each night. It's funny that the baseball games seem to be secondary on these vacations. Ironically, you look forward to the trip thinking about the cold beer and the games that you'll watch and enjoy, but when you come home what you remember most is the time that you spent with your loved ones.

Pitchers and Catchers report in 40 days.


WILLIAM said...

I lived in Orlando for 2 years and I told myself that I should drive the 2 hours for the Phillies Spring Training and I never did. I think it is very cool to do the trip.