No other sport has anything that comes close to baseball’s Spring Training. Football begins during the dog days of summer and even the most avid fans can’t get excited until after Labor Day. Basketball is practically a year-round sport, but the entire season is played indoors.
Baseball, on the other hand, is an annual rite of spring. For six weeks, from mid-February until early April,
It is a time for optimism. Every team is undefeated. Games don’t mean a thing, but competition is keen. Aging veterans may struggle to hang on to their careers for another season or two as youngsters in their teens and twenties try to unseat guys they once collected on bubble gum cards.
From he moment they lace up their cleats and hear the clackety-clack of their metal spikes upon the clubhouse floor for the first time in months, players feel a sense of renewal. But even that isn’t as special as that first magic step onto the field when the lush grass and the soft earth crunches beneath their feet. This is where they belong. They are home. Diamonds are a guys best friend, and they know it.
For a truly unique holiday, there is nothing quite like Spring Training. Travelers can visit the Cactus League (http://www.cactusleague.com/) in
There are several ways for vacationers to experience Spring Training. In
Games are played in the afternoon or at night and distances between parks are relatively short. With a schedule in hand and a little planning, fans can take in two games in a day and see four different teams play. It’s the ultimate doubleheader. If you do that just twice, you could see 40% of the major league teams compete in just two days of baseball.
Whether you travel to
Spring is that time of year when players are most accessible. Autographs are much easier to get than during the regular season. Most veterans only play four to six innings a game and, since Spring Training parks are small, it is convenient for fans to approach their favorite players.
In general, without the pressure of a regular season pennant races, most players tend to be more relaxed and available during Spring Training, especially if fans are polite and respectful in the knowledge that players, after all, are also working.
Baseball players are typically fun-loving people. The sport is designed that way. It suits the personalities of the men who play the game. Conscientious fans who understand the value of their role and the player’s need for personal space will be far more successful at gaining the attention of their favorite athletes than those who make obnoxious spectacles of themselves.
For a ball player Spring Training is, in many ways, a return to his roots. Games are played in parks rather than stadiums, just as they were in the minor leagues. Capacity is just a few thousand seats. Fans are frequently closer to the action than they will ever be during the season.
For some Spring Training is a perennial traveling adventure representing a new beginning. It is a time for short sleeves, Bermuda shorts, sunglasses and hot dogs.
For others it can be a nostalgic link to the past. Baseball thrives on folklore and tradition like no other sport. In some ways, regardless of the generation, baseball is a time machine back to a simpler, less complicated, day when life seemed more carefree. A time when little boys dreamed of being the next big league star and dads remember their own little boy dreams.
Still others simply savor an early escape from winter’s final blustery breaths. They follow the sun to bask in the green of the grass, the brown of the dirt, the blue of the sky and to hear the crack of the bat.
When April comes, the boys of summer head north with sun tanned faces that remind everyone else of what lies ahead.
Forget about the robins. When you see Blue Jays and Cardinals and Orioles, that’s when you know it is spring.
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Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in
Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.
As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.
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