Sam

Spring Training, circa 2011

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 at 5:42 am

I was talking to a friend in Hong Kong yesterday and he mentioned that it was the first day of Spring Training. Whenever someone talks about Spring Training, I cannot help but think of a wonderful Roger Angell essay, “The old folks behind home,” first published in the New Yorker in 1962 and re-published in Angell’s collection of baseball essays, The Summer Game. Angell’s is a wonderful essay that describes the adagio pace of spring training as it once was, games played in front of sparse crowds, fans -many of them retirees rich in their knowledge of the game – and players mingling in casual proximity as if in the produce section at a local supermarket. I love this essay and read it every March, for this is how I remember Spring training as well.

How different is spring training nowadays. Most games are sold-out, attracting crowds in some parks that would equal crowds during the regular season. A crowd of 15,000 for a Grapefruit League contest, for example, would have been unheard of when I was a kid but it is routine today. As the attendance figures have escalated, so have the ticket prices. In the 1960s a spring training ticket cost $ 0.50. Today when I looked on EBAY there were over 5000 listings for tickets and the going price seemed to be about $ 25.00. Regrettably, the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues are no longer names that resonate as teams are wont to schedule some spring training games in their regular season ballparks or even abroad. It is not uncommon nowadays for teams to play an exhibition game in Tokyo, of all places. Worst of all, teams have fantasy camps to go along with the big-league camp which means that at some point during the spring you have to suffer images of your boyhood idols wearing anachronistic polyester uniforms that do not conceal the comestible excesses of retirement.

In essence Spring Training has become every bit as bad the regular season. The only difference is that games don’t count in the standings.

Who knows that will probably change soon as well.

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