Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Rights of Spring

"Wave your hands in the air like you're going to be assigned to Pawtucket shortly!"
There are people who are very good at writing about the magic of spring training - Thomas Boswell, for one. They can conjure the magic and the pastoral grace of the scene of grown men trotting out to a green, green field to play catch in garments that look suspiciously like pajamas.

I'm not one of those guys. Don't get me wrong, mind you - I love baseball. I can't wait for the season to start. I look forward to reading about positional battles and spring phenoms and guys who, for the space of an afternoon split-squad game in Bradenton, are big leaguers because they dropped a dying quail in off a Cy Young winner who's just there to get his innings in. They may be gone with the first round of cuts, but they'll have that single forever.

See? I just don't have that Boswell poesy, that Posnanski everyman shuffle (complete with Springsteen soundtrack). What I do have, though are a few things. A dog-eared Brooklyn Dodgers yearbook my parents gave me. Baseballs autographed by guys like Ryan Madson and Miguel Batista and the 2011 Syracuse SkyChiefs. A kid-sized Montreal Expos baseball cap, purchased at Olympic Stadium during that last fateful summer when 5000 fans made themselves sound like 50,000 by hammering the metal stadium seats with tiny souvenir baseball bats. Publicity photos signed by guys like Dickie Noles and Jeff Stone. One of those guys actually screwed up his own signature; I won't tell you which one. A signed and dusty caricature of Bob Feller. Carolina Mudcats baseball cards from 2009. You get the idea.

These are not the items of a memorabilia collector. There is no rhyme or reason to them, no special effort being made to keep them pristine to ensure their resale price and no organization to them save "this would be cool" and being in the right place at the right time. They're a fan's collection of talismans, acquired over the years in fits and starts and "hey wait, what's that down there" explorations.

And they are the items of a guy who is made happy every year when spring training starts, not because of the overwrought poetry of watching David Ortiz seismically try to shake off the rust, but because it means he'll get to watch baseball games again soon. A simple pleasure, but a real enough one.

Pitchers and catchers have reported.

Play ball.
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