Photo cred: Grant Kraus/ Duncan Field/ Hasting College/ Hastings Nebraska
Its that fun time of the year again, spring training. With every February comes the anticipation of a new season of the best sport on earth. Baseball always has and always will be America’s pastime ever since its creation. There’s nothing like when you first discover baseball and pick your favorite team, usually its based on location. But when you are young you like cool logos and flashy colors, that is how you pick your true favorite team when you are young.
Once you pick that team, you always wish you can go watch one of their games. Then finally one summer when you are watching a game on TV, your parents ask, “How would you like to go to that stadium and watch them in real life?” You are insanely excited to go to your first game, you can imagine all the cool happenings in the game, from homers to the great defensive plays.
The day before you can barely sleep because you are so excited, and finally you are at the front gates. You didn’t even realize who is playing your favorite team, maybe that team could be the best in the league with a legend in the making. It could also be the worst team, but either way it is none the less special. Finally the tickets are scanned and you walk into the stadium with a bunch of other fans, you hear baseball chatter.
People are talking about the game, the teams, weather, and just about everything. The you finally realize the smells, everything from hot dogs being grilled to popcorn being popped and burgers being made. Nothing can compare to the smells that make you hungry and just craving some of those overpriced food. Then finally you get to your section smell something completely different, fresh cut grass.
You look at the field and you see the perfectly cross cut grass on the field, as well as, the perfectly grated and watered dirt. The fields crew is still out there trying to finish getting the field ready, putting down the track for the line machine. Finally the crew is done and the white foul line is crisp and white, they put down the box for the batters boxes and draw that outline. Finally the field is ready, all in time for the players to come out and start warming up in the outfield.
There he is, the star player on your favorite team, he starts his routine and is laughing and having fun with the rest of his team.
Finally the game starts, but none if this could be possible without spring training, from the outstanding prospect and standouts. To the veterans fighting for a roster spot, spring training is the best preseason in any sport. Who would have known in spring training that prospect that is starting would turn into the ace of his team.
As you are watching the game you are hearing the pop of baseball gloves, balls weakly hit off of the bat, and the ball rolling over grass and dirt. The game turns into a pitching duel, without even realizing it, its the seventh inning and your team still doesn’t have a hit. You finally realize it when the other team scores the first run and you look at the scoreboard, and see a zero under the hits column for your team. The half inning ends and your team is up, finally the sound you have been waiting for all day.
Your best player is up, with a guy on second and third, first pitch is a ball outside. He steps out of the box does his pre-pitch ritual, one foot in the box adjusts the gloves spits and adjusts his helmet. The next pitch is delivered in the strike zone, the batter swings CRACK he makes great contact. The ball goes flying off the bat toward left field, the left fielder has a great track on the ball and starts racing toward the wall. Back, back, back, back boom he hits the wall as the ball sails over his head for a home run. The crowd erupts as the home team takes the lead, the place is going crazy, finally the inning ends.
Its the top of the ninth with your team leading, the closer comes in and sets down the first guy, the second guy, the crowd is getting anxious. First pitch a looking strike on the outside corner, second pitch a swinging strike, third pitch is a foul ball, then finally strike three looking.
You saw everything you wanted to see, from diving catches, incredible stops, to that over the wall grab the center fielder made. You saw the pitchers make hitter look silly with the curveballs that seem like they drop from the heavens, fastballs no one can touch and changeups that slow down right as they cross the plate. Even the hitting was amazing as you saw the moonshots by some of baseballs best, even the perfectly placed bunts that want to go could but never do.
Some things that you wish you saw but didn’t kind of make you think about what could have been seen, like triples and the rare inside the park home runs. But looking back as you look at the ball park lights light up the night sky and think about the whole experience, you wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Even though you saw the finished product you didn’t get to see all the countless hours in spring training, the offseason and even before the game of the players lifting, hitting, watch film and reading charts, even the countless hours that the pitchers put in to get better in the bullpen. It makes this experience even more special, even though you can not ultimately compare that to the feeling you get when you first step onto a baseball diamond for a game.
The feeling you get of playing the game you saw played live in a major league park, trying to recreate the feeling and imagining it. Trying to recreate that swing of your favorite player, the incredible diving stops or other plays that you saw.
The best part of the game is after, when you go in your game jersey and dirty pants to go get ice cream or food. Then after you eat that you go home and your mom will always complain about washing your pants, but secretly deep down she wouldn’t trade that for the world, as she gets to watch her kid play the game they love.