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Nearly There

by Matt Smith

The counter on the main page of MLB.com has moved pretty slowly over the last week or so, but we’re almost there.  As I write this post, we are twenty-one hours away from pitchers and catchers reporting to their Spring Training camps.  After months of waiting, the first pre-season milestone is about to be reached and it won’t be long before the first practice games start in earnest.

Baseball news has been a bit thin on the ground over the past month or so, with only a few tales of minor signings and arbitration dealings to keep us all going.  The start of spring training not only allows the players to prepare themselves for the new season, but also the journalists and the fans.  Who will turn up hopelessly overweight?  Who will turn up looking in better shape than ever? (There’s some great “before and after” pics doing the rounds of a more slim-line King Felix Hernandez, which would be funny if I wasn’t a Felix-fearing A’s fan).  Who won’t turn up at all due to being locked out of America or plain locked-up in their home country?

The stories will unfold before our eyes as our ears try to catch the names of lesser-known prospects and non roster invitees while listening to announcers who are more interested in the hot dogs than any hot streaks.  Spring Training is a festival for which we have no real equivalent in British sports.  Wouldn’t it be great if the Premiership stars headed off to Great Yarmouth or Torquay during the early summer, staying in chalets and having kick-abouts on the local park pitches while pensioners surround the pitch snoozing in deckchairs or doing a Sudoku.

Maybe I’m doing Spring Training a slight disservice there(!), but spring training does seem a very laid-back affair.  And why not?  The MLB season is a long, hard trek for players and supporters alike.  Spring Training is the perfect way to gently slip back into the baseball season and the start is just around the corner.

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