Pitchers and catchers are reporting and it won’t be long before the Boys of Summer are back for 2017. Spring Training signals something special for me. The end of Winter, and the optimism of Spring. Most importantly, it means my favorite day of the year is near, Opening Day. The games may not count, but they do count down to the ones that will.
Admittedly, in Spring Training it’s often hard to judge performances. Veterans in particular tend to focus on certain aspects of their game, especially early. Pitchers are always a mystery, for this same reason, and also because the talent of the opponent is inconsistent. Colby Lewis last year comes to mind. Colby had a shaky spring coming back from injury, but when the season began, he anchored the middle of the rotation, before an injury sidelined him. Prince Fielder two years ago, made an effort to take the ball the other way and to beat the shift. That Spring Training work, paid off huge, as Prince had an MVP like first half of 2015. It’s the small things like this, that are sometimes hard to recognize from the outside looking in, but these things help to shape a season for a player and team.
Ultimately for myself, I want my club to stay healthy above everything. Start the season with all hands on deck, and fight for the division. I put little stock in Spring Training results, but it’s always exciting to have highlights and box scores to peruse. It’s also fun to follow the progress of a new addition, or be surprised by the development of the organization’s own youngster. Most importantly, it helps to build the anticipation for what should be a national holiday, Opening Day.
- Leddy Foster
Ready for Spring Training
So it began, inch by inch, piling up on the back porch. The most snow I have ever seen before last weekend was just enough to cover the dead grass in my fence-less backyard in rural Texas. Now when I take my dog out I am knee-deep in snow. My, what a difference over a thousand miles makes.
The fiancé and I moved to New England at the beginning of September. She was accepted to a great veterinary school up here and we both jumped at the opportunity to feed our wanderlust, if only slightly. Boston is a stone’s throw away, and anytime we head towards the coast, Fenway Park looms over the turnpike.
If the sign with white block letters were not there to indicate what the stadium was, I might not have caught it on our first drive into the city. But no sports fan can mistake that green for anything. I have never seen a game there, but that will soon change.
May 23rd is game one of a three game series between Boston and Texas. And while it is highly unlikely, I have heard that it has snowed in May up here. I can’t wait to sit in that aged stadium and watch the Rangers play. Really hoping the sun will be shining.
So as I sit here in mid-February looking out my window at piles of snow, it does not feel like Spring Training should be starting. And while the northeastern folks that surround me praise Brady and Belichick and claim they are the best ever, know that I am here eagerly awaiting my hometown team to visit. No amount of “clam chowdah” or “cold brewskies” will change my allegiance. Go Rangers.
- Cole Abston
The return of the great Hambino
That’s right folks. Josh Hamilton will be back in a Rangers uniform this spring trying to make the club on a minor league deal. There are times when I ask myself why the Rangers keep kicking the tires on Hamilton, who seems to be deep into the twilight of his career.
I promptly then remember that the Angels are still paying his salary, and I just relax and get excited about this no-risk play by the Rangers.
The reason I am excited is because Josh Hamilton has always captivated me as a baseball fan, and here are a few reasons why:
- He was a blue chip prospect whose career was seemingly derailed by years of drug and alcohol abuse who somehow resurrected his career. (I am a sucker for this story line every time it plays out.)
- He came back and took the baseball world by storm, culminating in his magical Home Run Derby performance in 2008 and MVP season in 2010.
- He hit 4 home runs in a game. (Thanks for the hanger Darren O’Day.)
- “Baseball Town”.
- He managed to get a team to pay him to play for someone else. In their own division, no less.
This list could go on for days, but the point is that Josh Hamilton-the player and the man-are hard to ignore. By all respects his career is over, right? There is no reason to believe that this spring he will show us anything other than what we have seen since Anaheim paid him to come back to us.
But still, I am interested. Still, I am anxious to see if there is anything left. Still, I will watch spring training with a little more excitement this year.
I will watch with anticipation, hoping there is at least a little bit of magic left. There’s no guarantee that he makes the team. There’s no guarantee that he regains his form.
That doesn’t matter though.
I just want one more Josh Hamilton magic moment. Even if it’s just one more majestic home run into the back fields of Surprise, Arizona, I will be a happy Rangers fan.
- David Miller
Evenings in Arizona
Outside the heart of spring, on the periphery of the echoing green tremulous with cracking bats and slapping leather, there is the a 16,000-acre area called South Mountain Park. It’s a brilliant canvas of Arizona’s unique mix of sienna and green, with many trails, wildlife, and a lookout with panoramic city views.
I never caught the city views. I caught the mountains, quite well, from Goodyear, where the Rangers were playing the Reds in 2011. I watched Mitch Moreland line a double to left center early in the game. I swore it was a sign he was going to break out into the hitter I thought he’d be. It wasn’t; it was a sign he read a slider the way you read sliders off guys who’ll top out in Louisville in six months.
The double faded. The crowd died down. For the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing about that game, aside from three things: Joe Morgan sat just outside the Reds dugout, which was as close as I’d been to a Hall of Famer not named Nolan; Mitch doubled to left, as a sign of nothing in particular; and those mountains.
Later in the afternoon, I drove up the trails into South Mountain park. I hiked about three miles into the desert, until I was halfway down on my water and the sun was starting to wane.
I saw no snakes, which are actually scarier than the ones you do see, as it turns out. I came to this ridge line and, thinking I’d been a long way, ascended to what I thought I thought was the end of the trail.
I was wrong.
The path that stretched out before was true desert back country. Bookended by heights I hadn’t dared climb was a valley that seemed to stretch for 5 miles. It was beautiful, and alive, and yet somehow harsh and daunting.
It was one of those moments that truly takes your breath away.
And with that, I understood spring training: the season stands before you, beautiful and crackling with life, and yet with an expanse so harsh and daunting that you must be of something truly special to step into it.
And to prepare us for it, the baseball Gods give us the beautiful stroll that is spring training. Alive with things unseen and steps to be taken, dreams undreamed, and realities stark but promising.
This is the spring. This is Arizona.
This is why we come here, to the middle of the desert: to discover. To awe. To dream.
- Chris Connor