Tagged: Spring Training

As Restless as a Willow in a Windstorm

Here is another guest entry from my former student, the writer, Trenna Field.

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Spring Baseball

Never mind whether or not a groundhog saw his shadow, the symbol for
spring is when the football season ends and baseball begins. Though spring may
not officially begin until March, the vision for warm weather arises when
Florida becomes more than a winter destination and Arizona becomes a vacation
destination for eager baseball fans.

As
pitchers and catchers begin their first official workout of the 2011 season,
the media is buzzing with the possibilities of whatever may happen with the Red
Sox. The unknowns are what can lead the team to prepare for the best and become
conscientious of the worse. J.D. Drew has mentioned a bothersome hamstring,
which could be a cause for concern as fans remember the injuries piling up, and
a mounting disabled list at the end of the 2010 season.

The
media has also attempted to stir up an in-team rivalry between Jenks and
Papelbon, though both have acknowledged a successful organization and a title
seeking team is the priority. Expectations for the upcoming season are set for
the top. The Red Sox are aiming for a World Series, which might leave some
feeling skeptical. Tracey Jackson, a guest on a Today Show segment titled “Why
50 Is Not The New 30” said, “if you set yourself up for expectations you can’t
meet, you’re going to be depressed.” That makes sense, but as the Red Sox have
everything in line for a great season and the passion to play for it, their
expectations are realistic leaving no room for depression. A Red Sox World
Series is quite possible, after all, it is only spring and anything is
possible.

  Fort Myers is a place where the kinks of the
team can be worked out, on and off the field, and a place that allows baseball
to begin as Fenway Park continues to thaw from the harsh New England winter.
Baseball has officially kicked off an early spring, although the temperature is
still below freezing and the wind chill is unbearable, with something like
opening day to look forward to, the winter is almost a thing of the past, like
the 2010 season.

Spring Rituals

The photos in yesterday’s Globe of the early arrivals reminded me of one significant fact in baseball–how many young players will play their guts out and never make the show.First there was the shot of Pap, looking perhaps like he needs to shed a few pounds, but possessing still his steely determination.Then there were the beautiful shots of “minor league players” unnamed, on the mound and strapped by workout parachutes. Parachutes not for landing anywhere but for pulling you deeper against the wind while running. As everything will seem to go with them, the game speeding them along to professional ranks, the reality of the greatness of so many others crowding the path will grow in front of them, in the grapefruit’s damp mornings and afternoon heat.

One of the great things of the game, which these players already know on so many deeper levels than I will ever know, is how one can return to it again and again for meaning and understanding. I love how the rituals of spring keep growing, with the celebrations for Truck Day and Pitchers & Catchers, etc. . It is sign to me that we want more from the game, with an almost insatiable desire. In celebration of every ritual, big and small, for Spring, and for the minor league players running wind sprints in Fort Myers, as I write this far north of them, and who will be still out there as the sun is setting, here is a poem by Mairead Small Staid:

IN THE TWILIGHT

A diamond is geometric, perfect,
lasting; no mathematician understands this

as we do. Paley found a watch,
believed in a watchmaker–

we do not question three strikes, three outs,
nine innings. We know like we know nothing else:

gods hewed this gem. Nothings less
could gild the grass in such a dying sun.

Nothing less could blur time like a field in haze.
The lanky leadoff, now, freckled wrists jutting,

crowding the plate, young enough to be cocky
& terrified–his bat kisses the ball, sweet & hard

& brief: we stand to watch this moment
arcing in the twilight, these boys

exploding into men.

(Published in The Southern Review, Spring 2010, page 297)

Mairead Small Staid is a resident of Massachusetts and a student at Pomona College. She has other work in The New York Quarterly

Waiting for Godot: The Beckett Question

It hurts to look at Josh Beckett’s ERA from 2010. If we stare at it long enough, we might forget his poise and prowess during the 2007 postseason. I remember that’s when a colleague who is a tenured Philosophy Professor, born in South Africa, commented on Beckett’s demeanor. He said, “that Red Sox pitcher is so inside himself. It’s amazing.” This is a man who hasn’t watched too much baseball but knows beauty when he sees it. (One needn’t go further than his garage full of old Jaguar convertibles.)This element of Beckett is not something that ever really goes away, only when he is noticeably playing through injury.

Godot_moon4.jpgAll last year, I watched games where Beckett seemed like he might be returning to greatness. It was a long wait. Just like the end of the play by the other Beckett. Vladimir says “Well, shall we go?” His cohort says, “Yes, let’s go” Then the stage direction reads “They don’t move.” There wasn’t much that changed. But if we look at Beckett’s stats, he has always given up a lot of home runs. After all, he has won 20 games only once.  At 30 years old, fans can hold onto their expectations for Beckett, somewhere in the 15-18 range for wins. The biggest change will be the comfort both he and Lackey will find in knowing their lineup is healthy and uniquely potent. We are still in winter and the stage is bare and it’s hard to know what’s coming until the big truck departs from Boston heading south. In this light, I am thinking  we will utter Vladimir’s words at the opening. “I am glad to see you back. I thought you were gone forever.”

df1bf7fcdf_beck04202008.jpg                                                                      Photo by Matt Stone

New Year. . . New Rules?

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Happy New Year To All. May 2011 bring us the glory most of us are dreaming of after the terrific signings of the past month. But may it also bring us new baseball friends and all the joys of game itself. This is the time of year when the darkness of the off season starts to feel long. Thanks to the MLB Network, all of those replays of the last year quench a bit of our thirst.

In a recent issue of ESPN magazine, writers collectively reviewed rules across sports. Charles Curtis and Eddie Matz wrote about “tweaks” that transformed games. The one-hop out was nixed in 1858. While I wouldn’t call that a mere “tweak” it may have seemed like a small change back then, though its consequences were long and hugely pervasive. Imagine how many no-hitters Roy Halliday would pitch, they ask. The significance of their list reminds me that baseball must continue to proceed slowly with rule changes in order to manage unforeseen effects. The home-run review rule is fine by me, as it hasn’t altered play. An interesting proposition to change the balk rule, with a strict marking on the mound is a practical solution to reducing manager sprints to the face of an umpire. But, I wonder, again, is the issue one of forcing stricter limitations on interpretation the real way to go, or can we just better train those guys, with some salary incentives in the mix?

This past season, there was one element, not necessarily a rule, that annoyed me the most and it didn’t have to do directly with the action on the field. I never understand the announcers need to discuss a no-hitter in progress before the 7th inning. It seemed to me that this past year we experienced a great deal of no-hitter hype, most of it premature, as though reporters were racing to declare an election winner before the polls close. Jason Turbow has an excellent chapter on this superstition and practice in his book, The Baseball Codes. After reading this, I find I am not alone in my request for superstition to be as contagious in the booth as it is in the dugout.