March 22nd, 2010 21:01 EST
Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and the Sweet Smell of Spring Training
Our national past time, the great game of baseball comes to us; the sports fan in a variety of ways. Whether we are driving by the park on a warm spring Saturday morning and happen to glance over and see a slew of future major league baseball players wearing baseball uniforms that are a size too big for them playing the game like they were big name free agents but are still in Grammar school, or we are sitting in our front living room sipping down our favorite cold beverage watching the Saturday Game of the Week on Fox, the game of baseball has the same meaning in every form and variety it comes to us; and that is play for the love of the game.
There is no greater feeling than to watch the weather go from the scene as if we were Bart Starr or Brett Favre playing a Sunday NFL game in January at Lambeau Field in Green Bay to a warm and sunny seventy-five degrees, clear skies, and have the sweet, dewy smell of freshly cut grass in the air as the sounds of fastballs smack against the fine grained leather of a catcher`s mitt and the crack of a baseball bat shatters the quiet as the leather cowhide of a baseball comes down the pipe to home plate at over ninety miles an hour and makes contact with the hard surface of a wooden baseball bat.
Ahh, yes! Baseball season has finally arrived and every fan from two-years old to one hundred and two are donning their favorite team`s baseball hat and heading for the park or stadium to take in the enjoyment of the great game of baseball.
When Spring comes so does baseball Spring Training. Spring training is a time for major league teams to let rookies or new players audition for a spot on the team`s roster and let the existing players on the team practice and get ready for the upcoming season.
Spring training is held in warm climate areas such as Florida and Arizona as-well as other places. Many of the teams today have been taking part in spring training in the very same areas for many decades. A good example of this is the Los Angeles Dodgers who from 1953 " 2008 had been holding their spring training operations at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. The Dodgers moved their spring training camp to Glendale, Arizona in 2008 due to a very lucrative offer from the newly built Camelback Ranch facility there in Glendale, Arizona.
Spring training normally lasts around two months with the pitchers and catchers being the two positions to arrive to spring training first followed by the other players. Pitchers need to have a longer duration to get ready for the season because pitchers really have a more exhausting position to train for. After the rest of the team arrives, the practice begins.
Spring training consists of many exhibition or practice games and gives teams managers a chance to evaluate players for certain positions and to make the final cut for the team. It also gives the local community a connection with not only Major League baseball but the team itself. Many fans make it a point to travel to spring training to watch their home team practice, meet players, get autographs and sort of begin the upcoming baseball season early. Also, many college students hold their spring break at various cities that are having spring training.
The first years of spring training began in the 1920s and consisted of at that time of only a handful of teams participating. The St. Louis Cardinal`s held practice sessions in Hot Springs, Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The newly formed Chicago Cubs held spring training in Los Angeles, the St. Louis Browns followed later by the Kansas City Athletics held spring training in San Diego, and the Pittsburgh Pirates held their spring training in Honolulu, Hawaii.
By the 1940s other Major League teams joined in on holding spring training. The two main hot spots that host the most Major League teams in spring training are Arizona and Florida. They are the warmest climates but throughout spring training history this has not always been the case. Six decades ago in 1947, the Brooklyn Dodgers at that time held spring training in Havana, Cuba. They moved to the Dominican Republic in 1948. They were followed by the New York Yankees in the 1950s which also trained in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
At that time, a lot of spring training camps were held in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Northern Mexico. During World War II, the teams were limited to train close to their home cities in order to limit and conserve rail transport. The Chicago White Sox held spring training in French Lick, Indiana while the Washington Senators held camp in College Park, Maryland. The Yankees held camp in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Our sister baseball country, Japan also holds spring training like we do in this country. Japan holds spring training for their professional teams in Eastern Asia, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. They also hold spring training camps in Hawaii, Salinas, California and the city of Yuma near the border of Mexico.
The teams that train in the same city will play each other in spring training exhibition games. A good example of this is the teams that train in Arizona will play other teams that train in Arizona. This is called the Cactus League which is named after the plants that grow in the respective state.
The Grapefruit League which is in the state of Florida consists of the teams of the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Washington Nationals.
The Cactus League consists of the teams of Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox`s, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A`s, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.
During spring training games statistics are recorded but those recorded statistics are considered separate from regular season games. If any unofficial record is recorded say the most home runs hit during spring training, the most stolen bases, the most double or triple plays recorded, then those records if any during spring training are considered unofficial by Major League baseball.
On example of this happened on March 14, 2000 when the Red Sox`s were playing a spring training exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays. During the game the Red Sox`s used six of their pitchers to win 5 " 0 and throw a perfect game. During the regular season a team achieving a perfect game is a milestone in baseball and is recorded in the history and records of statistics but during spring training; it gets little notice and this particular game the Red Sox`s didn`t even know they accomplished a perfect game until during a media interview with one of the Red Sox`s players it was brought up.
The positive context of statistics during spring training is that those certain statistics are recorded by each team for each player which gives the team insight on which starting position and role that player per his statistics during spring training can be used in.
So, with the forward movement of the season of spring comes the season of baseball. The season of baseball in spring has the essence of the smell of fresh blooming flowers, freshly cut grass, and warm summer like temperatures coming with it.