I’ve come a long way since I had to meticulously set up my VCR to record the Game of the Week on my lousy, buzzing and rolling miniature television crowned with broken rabbit ears. (and Mel Allen’s TWIB!) It almost seems absurd that I can now watch any game of my choosing on my phone while exercising or sitting on the toilet, and up to four different games simultaneously on my laptop. And that’s exactly what I decided to do on a lazy Friday. Escape. Open a few cans of Lone Star, tear open a bag of chips and salsa, and…just…escape. Does anyone care about Spring Training and its shuffling of bush leaguers and odd rules? Probably not.
Shohei Ohtani was on the hill for the Halos and that made me harken back to the time I saw him pitch in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium one curiously freezing night in Los Angeles. The bleachers were teeming with Japanese, no doubt there to see their fellow countryman Ohtani pitch, and a young lady walking by my seat in the aisle spilled a large tray of nachos on me and my F*** the Angels t-shirt. (The stains exist to this day and I am still resolute about that idea) She apologized profusely and meekly in broken English and I felt terrible for her and assured her that I would wash myself off in the bathroom and there were no hard feelings. I also made a mental note of the very odd cultural difference/dichotomy of the Japanese dressing as if they were attending a business function/fashion show rather than the American way of dress which was mostly casual and lacking visual ingenuity with a few jerseys and baseball caps thrown into the mix. I honestly had never seen anyone wear a suit and tie at a baseball game that didn’t involve black and white footage of a guy cheering for Babe Ruth and tossing a fedora into the air. Is this a thing?
These glorified practices are opiate-inducing, laid-back affairs and I was watching passively as Mike Trout was pulled from the game in the 3rd and was probably teeing off by the 5th. Matt Olson does what Matt Olson does and hits a moon-shot to RF in his “feast or famine” playing style that is popular with big leaguers and Olson seems to excel at. The A’s decided to throw in a pitcher by the name of Brian Schlitter (who didn’t play last year because the minor leagues went the way of the dodo) and I had to stifle a laugh as I had written about this dude waaay back in 2019 before that mystery guy even thought about eating the delicious flying mammal that caused a global pandemic: A’s call up Brian Schlitter, A’s bullpen still in the shitter. You ever hear that tired cliche–“the more things change the more they stay the same?” As you may have guessed, Schlitter did indeed put the game in the shitter, but I didn’t notice as equal measure of beer and Spring Training kicked in, and I was soon floating on clouds while verbal sparring with Morpheus in lotus land. Final: Angels 7 A’s 3
Your insights on dressing up for games sent me on a sentimental journey back in time to May 1, 1965. I made my first Holy Communion that morning and my reward was I was taken to that afternoon’s Orioles vs. Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. The only problem was my mom, bless her heart, insisted I wear my communion outfit. I looked like a 8-year-old wedding cake figurine. I was mortified, but, this being New York, I soon discovered nobody at the ballpark seemed to give a damn how I was dressed. I got to see a classic starting pitching matchup of Don Larsen for the Orioles vs. Whitey Ford for the Yankees, plus Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson and Luis Aparicio, too, and stopped caring how I was dressed. if someone had spilled nachos on me, though, I’m sure my mom would have slugged the person, then gone to confession.
What a great story! Man, I would kill to go to that game. I’d probably be overwhelmed on so many levels. I can barely remember the day I had my first communion, and that’s probably because there wasn’t a ballgame to look forward to after the festivities.
“I looked like a 8-year-old wedding cake figurine.” Hahaha. Great story! (“Oh, hi, Doggie.” Know you’re Tommy Wiseau dialog.) Thanks for sharing.
Boy, I can relate being a little kid, forced into my fancy clothes for the most inopportune events. My tale was that I got stuck wearing white patent leather shoes once, with a plaid sports jacket. But it was the “style” (or lack thereof, back then). Yes. I cried, “Mooom.”
It looked like I was headin’ to Miami to take care of a “thing” for that “thing,” then hittin’ a gambling cruise, after. Making a kid wear white leather shoes is just cruel. But going to a ball game in communion wears. I feel, ya.
Personally I love spring training games on the boob-tube. Two or three innings of the regulars you know and love and then nap time in your comfy-chair. An hour later you wake up with maybe an inning or so left and you don’t give a crap about what you’ve missed in-between!— Because you’ve missed Nothing! How Perfect is that?
Jeeezuz….did you just have a zen moment?
No, indigestion I think?
Great memories of going to spring training games. I enjoyed it more than actual games. You’d think with the expanded cable-verse, they’d run the full spring season on a cable channel. (Or do they now? Never checked that out.)
I’m a LAD fan, (sorry) but gosh I think I may have to start paying attention to the A’s. Great writing!
I would wish the Dodgers good luck this year but I’m not sure that club needs it.
True, but after years of almost making it, and this pandemic, anything can happen.
I love sitting in my office with the Spring Training games buzzing in the background… Getting distracted from my work when a particular play gets exciting… hearing the different voices talk about the mundane 4-3 putout.
It’s almost like the world is right again.
I agree. It’s meditative and feels like a good friend has returned.
Hey Gary, as usual, hilarious and great writing. Incredible writing! You should be published where you get paid, where so many more people could read your writing, your insights and humor and what not. One of the things that gets me interested in spring training games is the numbers…..or not so much the 99, 98, and 71 on the backs of jerseys, but the prospects or not really prospects that wear them fighting to make the team or the alternative sight which i still don’t understand. do they play games on those sites? Inter-squad games? Or games against other alternative sights? other teams?
Thanks for the kind words, Steve. I’m supposed to be in a baseball anthology coming later this year, but it seems more and more that getting published tangibly is just an ego boost for writers. Consequently, I could publish the same piece on this blog and get 10’s of 1,000’s of readers to engage whereas the physical specimen would maybe be read by merely 100’s. It seems that the traditional book realm only works for people like Steven King or J.K. Rowling. That being said, I suppose it will be cool to hand it out to friends and have some sense of fleeting accomplishment. What’s a guy gonna do? As far as spring training is concerned, I remember there used to be split squads, but I’m assuming they did away with that because of covid? I’m confused by the whole 5 inning, 20 pitch thing anyway so it’s hard not to just see the shenanigans as a “theatrical workout.” You can definitely see the differences in talent between a ML player and a guy who will be eating crackers in AAA.
Gary, you make a great point about the readership and engagement being better here on wordpress than being published by some small, independent outlet. And I think you’re right. It is an ego thing. But it would be nice to know that someone liked the writing, resonated with them to the point that they were willing to take a chance and publish it, but as you say, wordpress provides the same opportunity and even better, inspires a conversation between reader and writer. Incidentally, I’d love to get the name of that anthology you’re gonna be published in so i can buy a copy.
i know very little about the minor leagues, like what’s the financial arrangement between them and the major league team and why do affiliates keep changing cities? The one team that makes sense as far as its AAA affiliate is the Braves with its AAA team being in Gwinnett, Georgia, close enough geographically to Atlanta for them to make a last minute call up for a spot starter…at least i think that’s still there AAA affiliate.
With a title like that, how can I not click through!
You fell for my trap! *evil laugh*
Hi thanks for sharinng this
Thanks for reading Maya.