Sunday, March 17, 2013

Last Thoughts on Spring Training

Fran, Chris, Chik-fil-A Cow, and others on the edge of hypothermia; Yankees/Phillies game, March 13, Tampa, Florida
I’m back home to North Carolina with mixed feelings about our trip to Spring Training. 

Overall, for a Bulls fan, the key lesson was:

 “Be patient … the season will start … eventually.”

We saw three games, but I regret to say that the baseball simply wasn’t that interesting. The games were the Detroit Tigers-New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays-New York Yankees, New York Yankees-Philadelphia Phillies. We knew that at this point of pre-season the regulars were only playing a few innings and that winning/losing wasn’t all that big a deal. However, knowing it intellectually and experiencing in the stands are two different things. For example, after the 5th inning of the Tigers/Mets game about six of the big names came out of the dugout and strolled off to the gate in right field, jerseys pulled out of their pants, laughing and telling jokes. Their day was over. I get that, but couldn’t get used to it. What was missing, from our great distance up in the stands, was intensity.

At an individual player level, for those without an assured spot on the roster, I am sure each pitch and each at bat was very important. For teams other than the Rays/Bulls, I just didn’t know enough (and found it hard to find out) to tell who’s career was on the bubble.

A Bulls fan can’t help but compare the parks to the DBAP. None of them even come close. I realize it probably isn’t a fair comparison, since these stadium are used mostly for Single-A ball the rest of the year. Seems to me fans are being gouged when they pay top dollar for not very good seats. Our tickets were all above $20 and that paid for seats pretty far away from home plate. In design, the Yankees field in Tampa came the closest, but still a distant second place to the DBAP.

On this tour, we got a good bit more than baseball on the field, including the previously mentioned visit to Tropicana Field and some remarkable presentations by an exceptional baseball expert, Coach Bill Mathews of Eckerd College. I’ll probably be using several of his insights into the fundamentals of baseball and baseball scoring as the season goes along.

So, yes, I did get to see many, many players that I would never have seen in person. I learned a bit more about the game. I met some terrific people (even if many of them were Yankees fans). We even met another couple who were from Pittsboro and Durham Bulls fans! 

Did we enjoy it? Yes. Would we do it again? Probably not. For pure, top quality baseball in a pleasant, affordable environment, the short trek to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on a summer night is a much, much better experience.

But the waiting is killing me!

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