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Hooray, Baseball’s Back! (Good, I Needed a Nap)

An ode to spring training (with running rebuttal from my evil baseball twin).

Baseball in spring is about the smell of fresh-cut green grass glistening in the early morning dew.

(Hope you packed a box of tissues and a strong antihistamine.)

Baseball in spring is a warm Scottsdale sun splashing on your cherubic face.

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(Then you turn red as a lobster, peel like a potato and the doctor orders a biopsy.)

Baseball in spring is about reconnecting with an old friend. It is unrequited love, a tonic for one’s soul.

(I can’t believe you just typed that tripe. How about a short-stack to go with that syrup.)

Baseball is metaphor, an elixir for the afflicted, a poetic pallet cleanser, with every spring representing a renewal that reflects life’s cyclical moods and rhythms.

(Baseball, pal, is a game played with corked sticks honed from dead trees and balls forged from horsehide on the backs of cheap labor. Some ball players dribble tobacco juice on their shirts.)

Baseball, oh how I love thee, the cacophony of cleats clacking on concrete, the bark of the umpire calling out “Play Ball,” the way the sunlight caroms in angular rays off your diamonds of perfect geometric symmetry.

(Now I get it, you’re trying to win a writing contest!)

Baseball in spring rekindles memories of youth, lost innocence and that long-ago game of pitch and catch with dad.

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(Kevin Costner on line two; he wants to talk plot development.)

Baseball is timeless (some games last five hours).

March is the month when hope springs eternal (sounds like you’ve sprung a literary leak, my friend), a time when fans long devoted to long-lost causes dream of winning the World Series (Chicago Cub fans have been dreaming for 94 seasons. Keep dreaming).

Perhaps this is the year the Detroit Tigers, like the Angels last year, will surprise the baseball world.

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(Memo to Motown fantasy league land: the Tigers lost 106 games last year and are a cinch to lose 95 this year. Denny McLain is not coming back.)

Baseball in spring is about taking ownership in an idea.

(The idea for Angel and Dodger ownership is dumping their money-losing franchises before CEOs are forced to close down a theme park and a regional cable network. Why Disney ventured outside the animation and bobsled ride business I’ll never know. Fox would have done better investing in a cricket team in Melbourne.)

Baseball in spring is about wide-eyed and scrub-faced rookies trying to make the big club.

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(And, according to David Wells, guys with bloodshot eyes, raging hangovers and five o’clock shadows mixing fastballs with high balls.)

Baseball in spring is about annual treks to gardens of Eden in Arizona and Florida.

(Remember the time you blew a tire outside of Yuma, got stung by a scorpion and had to hitch a ride into town on the back of a Harley?)

Baseball in spring is about relacing your old glove and oiling the deep-well pocket in the hope a foul ball might come your way.

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(If you’re smart enough to allow the ball to glance off your head, you can file a lawsuit.)

Spring is the time to watch your heroes work their way into shape as they prepare for the rigors of an arduous baseball season.

(Colorado Rockie reliever Todd Jones on spring training in the Sporting News: “You just play golf every day and eat out every night

Baseball in spring is about honing and shaping skills.

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(Or, in the case of the Chicago White Sox, triggering a “diminished skills” clause in Frank Thomas’ contract.)

Each spring, you marvel at the game’s uniquely abstract nuances.

(The Boston Red Sox recently hired the uniquely abstract Bill James and he told the team it doesn’t need a closer!)

Baseball in spring is going over how you score a game with a No. 2 pencil and calculating slugging percentage: divide total bases of all safe hits by the total times at bat.

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(While you’ve got that calculator handy, figure out how much money the Dodger pitching staff is making by the hour.)

Spring training is about reacquainting yourself with the infield fly rule.

(After that, reacquaint yourself with Albert Belle’s “Get Out of My Face” rule.)

Spring training is the place where stars are born and rough gems are polished.

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In 1961, the Dodgers’ erratic left-hander, Sandy Koufax, had an epiphany and at last found his pitching control. He would dominate National League batters until his premature retirement in 1966.

(In 2003, Koufax almost had a coronary after reading the New York Post and cut off all ties to the Dodger organization. His story would dominate talk radio for three days.)

Baseball in spring is about Vero Beach.

(Vero Beach is so boring you could fire a cannon down Main Street at night and not hurt anyone.)

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Baseball in spring is about building relationships with teammates (Ask Kirk Gibson about the time Jesse Orosco put eye black on his cap back in 1988).

Baseball in spring is about defeating those “Damn Yankees.”

(If George Steinbrenner doesn’t lay off Derek Jeter, there could be a coup d’etat before the club breaks camp at Tampa.)

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, had a saying: “Let’s Play Two.”

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(The San Francisco Giants had a saying: “Twenty-five players, twenty-five cabs.”)

Spring training, really, is for the inner child in all of us.

(Your inner child better get a good look now because he won’t be able to stay up late enough to watch the World Series.)


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