the official metsgrrl spring training report

[Administrative note: I know this post is incredibly long. But this will likely be one of the last posts before the blog moves out of Blogger and onto a proper web site, one that will allow me to have excerpts on the front page and each post on its own page. So I beg your indulgence, but if I don’t post this now, once the season gets started it will never get posted.]

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Spring training wasn’t about the tickets or the hotel or any of the other innumerable details it took to get TBF and I down to Florida last weekend. Spring training was about that first moment that the gates to the practice fields opened at 9:30am, and we walked down a dirt path in the morning sunshine. The grass was that impossible, improbable green, and instead of watching it from above you were surrounded by it. The sky was blue and gold and ringed with fluffy white clouds. The air was warm and soft and clean, the breeze that blew through the pine trees was calm and soothing. There were birds twittering in the background, and a layer of quiet underpinned it all.

Then the players walked onto the field, the royal blue uniforms the perfect contrast to the green and the sky. They are feet away, relaxed stance, smiling and laughing and decidedly normal. Your shoulders relax another few inches, climbing down from their mundane sentry posts up around your ears. The grass is still slightly wet and sparkling. You lean against a fence, breathe the air, and decide what to watch next. No pressure, though, you’ll be back again tomorrow. Sure, they may clear the spectators after 15 minutes, or after 30, but you’ll be get something you didn’t know you came here for, and you’ll be back the next day. Wait, there’s Carlos Delgado on a different field, practicing short hops with Sandy Alomar, over and over and over, and you can just stand there quietly and watch him. No one else is really paying attention, they’re all over at the other field, waiting with their Sharpies and their clean white baseballs.

Yeah, the hordes with no manners, clamoring for autographs in the middle of the workout, with their dozen balls in mesh sacks or their game-used base in a plastic grocery bag, toted by a child who is just barely bigger than said base, could piss you off and ruin the whole thing. The beauty of it is that they don’t have to.

Go stand somewhere else, and if you’re lucky, you’ll befriend one of the security guards who got married the year the Mets were born and he and his wife became Mets fans by default. He can tell you stories from 1966 or 1972 or a few weeks ago. Talk to the couple standing next to you with the disposable camera, and you’ll find out that they’re at workouts to get signatures for the wife’s father, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease but loves Jose Reyes and David Wright.

Stroll over to the side field and watch the minor leaguers, who you may see on the adjoining field in a few years. Say good morning to Al Jackson as he strides by, heading for another field, where he’ll shortly be joined by the starting rotation. You can’t stand next to that fence but you can get close enough to watch them take a lesson in fielding.

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Baseball happens so fast; Spring Training is where it all slows down. I can watch Aaron Heilman throw tosses or take a dozen photos of Mike Pelfrey pitching because it doesn’t count, because you’re so much closer, because you can be selective about your details. It’s zen meditation in the real world, watching the baseball arc in that familiar movement from home plate into the outfield, as you watch it trace an invisible line through the air and down into the waiting glove of the outfielder. *smack* You can hear the ball hit leather, because it is spring training and you are closer than you will ever be at Shea. You use binoculars to lip read or to see who is doing what in the bullpen or figure out what Lastings Milledge’s batting gloves look like.

That would be a good start to attempt to explain what the whole Spring Training trip was like.

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