I took my father to Florida for a week to experience the wonders of spring training. What we were hoping for, I'm not exactly sure; we'd been talking about the trip for a while, since well before my mother passed away, and it was always going to be some time in the future when things were better, whatever that meant. This year, it meant doing it now.
I don't think either of us were looking for some sort of mystical Field of Dreams experience where suddenly our father-son bond started glowing or some such. Nor were we checking off items on a bucket list. Rather, it was a thing we both thought we'd enjoy, and that we'd enjoy doing it together. That's all. No magic. Just basic enjoyment. There's something to be said for that, though.
We saw four games at four different stadiums. The Blue Jays play across the street from a community center. The Phillies play in the parking lot of a mall, and to get out after the game, you need to exit via the Buffalo Wild Wings lot. The Yankees' stadium, named for the late George M. Steinbrenner, sits majestically in the middle of greenery, as if to say "practice your genuflection here". And the Tigers, well, Joker Marchant Stadium, a renovated warhorse of a ballpark, sits out in Lakeland, in a neighborhood but not quite of it.
Spring training is big business. The first game we attended, Red Sox at Blue Jays, was sold out online. "No problem," I thought. "Someone will be selling tickets at the game."
Someone was, for $100 a pop.
There's special spring training programs, designed to let you know who the guy wearing number 89 and playing shortstop for your team after the fourth inning is. The Phillies and Tigers wanted $4 for theirs. The Blue Jays, $5. The Yankees? $10, though it was better bound and twice the size of the others. Because, well, Yankees. (Still doesn't explain why they were getting more for lemonade than anyone else. Except, well, Yankees.)
All of the programs ran through everyone who might possibly be appearing in a spring training game. Everyone but the Yankees did so in numeric order, the better to answer the question of "Who the heck is #78 and what's he doing at first base?" (Answer: Brock Stassi and he's filling in for Tommy Joseph, who took one off the hand and got pulled from the game.) The Yankees, on the other hand, believe in the dignity of Being A Yankee. Their program lists players alphabetically, as if to suggest these are Yankees, you should know who they are already.
Yes, even the guy wearing #89.