It’s unseasonably cold and damp out here in Los Angeles, but somehow that makes it feel like baseball season is around the corner. Having lived on the East Coast up until late 2009, this is the type of weather I am used to in mid-February. This is the weather that makes spring training sites in Florida and Arizona feel like millions of miles away, but at the same time lets you know those chilly, dreary April days at the ballpark — in the Northeast anyway — are getting close.
While my transition from football to baseball has clearly gone into effect, I am not one of those fans who gets goose bumps from the now-cliched phrase, “pitchers and catchers.” Pitchers and catchers reporting to their teams’ spring training camps serves as the official start of the baseball season for some. For me, it’s one big tease. At the same time, knowing the players are starting to toss the ball around down south gets me thinking about baseball again; about how the Mets can avoid a bad season, and ditto for my fantasy team.
For sports fans like me, who put baseball and football at the top of their lists, there isn’t a whole lot going on right now. As a Knicks fan, I am enjoying their new-found success this season, but the playoffs are still two months away. I love college basketball, but the fact that my favorite team and alma mater, the UMass Minutemen, have floundered since a good start has tempered my excitement for the time being. So why not start thinking about baseball? Why not have some of those bar stool conversations about whether the Yankees or Red Sox win the AL East? or listen to your wife gloat about her Phillies?
For some reason, in baseball more than the other sports, every team thinks it has a chance when it arrives at spring training. At least that’s what you hear anyway. It’s strange how that philosophy seems to go along with baseball, since it’s the only one of the four major sports without a salary cap. I guess people in Pittsburgh and Kansas City don’t think their teams have a chance when spring comes. The notion of every team starting at 0-0 and being on equal footing before Opening Day might not be rooted in reality, but it has its merits; did anyone think the Tampa Bay Rays would be American League Champs in February of 2008?
While the time frame of the baseball season is actually shorter than that of basketball or hockey, it feels longer. In much of the country, the season begins with a nip in the air. It takes us through spring and into early summer. In July and August, we take the game with us to the beach or sweat through the heat and sometimes humidity at the ballpark. In September, baseball fights with football season for attention, and less kids show up for games, as the words “school night” re-enter their vocabularies. The playoffs in October take us right back to where we started, bundled up in everything from sweatshirts to winter coats.
Right now we’re in the exploratory stages of the 2011 baseball season, and even in typically warm and sunny LA, it’s a little cold and breezy.
It’s starting to feel like baseball season.