There is nothing more scintillating for me as a baseball fan than when I hear the words, “Pitchers and catchers report for duty today in Florida.” That sentence makes the hairs stand up on my arms, and I think back to the countless cool spring days that I played ball myself, with the dream of being like my heroes Cleon Jones, Ron Swoboda, or Tom Seaver. Any kid whoever pounded a glove on the cool wet grass of a field on a spring day knows the feeling, and that is why spring training makes us all young again and filled with hope.
Of course, every team - whether it is the major league franchise or the pee-wee league variety - has the fever that spring brings. No one has any wins or losses that count; everyone’s batting average or ERA is zero, and there is the feeling that this year we will go all the way. The eternal hope of spring training manifests itself in these cool bright days, and the only way you become boys of summer is by first being the ones of spring.
Reality will set in eventually for all of us as the long schedule that drags its feet through March produces some malaise even among the most ardent fans. We want opening day to come quickly, but as injuries happen and old knees creak, the prospects begin to look less rosy and some of us may even wish to put off that first pitch of the season if we could somehow.
As a New York Mets fan, I don’t have that much to be happy happy about this spring. Other teams have signed free agents of note and are ready to compete, but for the Mets fans we are stuck with mediocrity and the prospect of a quiet spring that will blossom into what seems like it will be another one of those wait until next year scenarios.
You know you’re in trouble if the most promising new signings are people named Boof Bonser. I mean, even George (the Stork) Theodore had a more baseball appropriate name than that. The Mets are going to struggle this year because of a lack of starting pitching, a suspect bullpen, and question marks about regular players like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Jason Bay. In fact, there are so many questions about this team, I think they should adopt the Riddler costume as their new uniform. Can you imagine Luis Castillo walking around saying, “Riddle me this; riddle me that; does anyone dare, give me a bat?”
Still, I want to think of those springs long gone and the ghosts of players who once wore the orange and blue. Where have you gone Tommie Agee? I know you’re somewhere up there with Gil Hodges, Tug McGraw, and the rest of the gone but never forgotten Mets greats. At one time we dared to dream and we got a team that beat Hank Aaron and the Braves and Brooks Robinson and the Orioles. That’s when they earned their moniker The Amazins. Man, that does seem like a long, long time ago.
So as baseball fans everywhere get ready for a glorious spring, pound a ball wet with dew from the grass inside a glove. Tilt the hat back on your head and look up at the endless blue sky. In the eternal sunshine of spring, anything is possible, even for Mets fans. Even we can dare to dream these days for a little while, or at least until that first pitch on opening day when everything counts and reality sets in.
Cleon Jones – Phoenixnewtimes.com
The Riddler – Batman-Superman.com