Ernest Hemingway wrote in “A Moveable Feast,” “When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” Well, there are few places that give the opportunity for the sheer pleasure of spring, along with the opportunity to celebrate our Florida lifestyle, than a Spring Training Baseball game. You can enjoy the drama of Major League play, down a hotdog and soft drink with a perfectly clear conscience, while your friends and relatives up north are still shoveling snow from their driveways.
What is it that people love so much about baseball? 1) It has spawned the best movies about sports. 2) Most baseball stadiums are called “parks,” which sounds like a place to take the kids; who can always be seen with oversized gloves, a Sharpie pen and a baseball that some player just might sign. 3) It is also the only popular team sport that doesn’t involve a clock. The game is over when it is over, not when some horn sounds or whistle blows. You can sit with your friends and talk about the game or the weather or the family and no one will “shush” you. 4) Also you can expect to stand to your feet and sing with the rest of the fans, “Take me out to the ball game,” during the 7th inning stretch.
Perhaps it was the character of Terrance Mann in “Field of Dreams” who said it best, “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
Baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
For those of you who are fans the anticipation of the Spring ritual is even more exciting. Many remember the high expectations the Washington Nationals came into the 2012 Spring Training season with. What followed was a season that exceeded predictions. Eight years after landing in DC, the Nationals claimed their first National League (NL) East crown and post-season berth. The Nationals tallied an impressive 100 wins in 2012, which included Major League Baseball’s best record with a 98-64 mark during the regular season (4.0 games ahead of Atlanta in the NL East), as they either led the NL East or shared the top spot for all but 10 days during the campaign.
In addition, the Nationals are only the 5th team in modern MLB history (1901-present) to post 3 consecutive seasons winning 10 or more games than the year prior and they are the first team in over 100 years to do so without the benefit of an artificially deflated win total associated with a work stoppage. These accomplishments garnered Sporting News’ National League 2012 Manager of the Year Award for Davey Johnson. He was quoted as saying, “To be recognized by my fellow comrades, a particularly accomplished bunch, makes this award especially meaningful. To put on the uniform every day and compete is an honor I never take for granted.”
Sports writer Frank Cumberland put it this way, “To me Spring Training is the human personification of optimism. Every bright hope begins here. Every team is tied for first. Every player shares the batting title. And in Spring training, no group has more reason for optimism than the loyal fans of the Washington Nationals…see you in Viera!”