There was a time when Spring Training was little more than players playing practice games, getting ready for the season, and signing autographs for the kids. Now, Spring Training is big business, ticket prices have shot up, hotels are gouging us, and any decent restaurant has a 3 hour wait. So, what happened?
First, the weather, which has always been great, is conducive to coming out to the old ballpark. When I first started coming down here with my kids, we played golf in the morning, then headed to the ballpark. We followed that up with dinner at a famous place (now closed) like Don and Charlie’s, hoping to get an up close glimpse at some of the stars of both today and yesterday. And BTW, I do miss a glimpse at some of the great stars of yesterday, Willie Mays, Willie Mac, Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, and the Baby Bull himself, Orlando Cepeda.
Second, with cozier ballparks, watching the game is more enjoyable. It is possible to hear the players talk, see the ball actually curve, and even talk to some of the players. And despite exponentially higher prices, spring training games remain a bargain compared to regular season seats.
Third, nobody seems to be very serious about anything, other than getting a tan and chugging a few beers. Nobody cares about the score of the game, or often times, who is playing. The stars only play a few innings at most, so get there early Many obsucre names and really high uniform numbers dominate the lineup. Maybe the groundskeeper will get into the game as a 9th inning replacement?
Mostly, Spring Training is about hope, hope that your favorite team will get to the playoffs, and even win the big one. Hope that your favorite player will make it through the season uninjured, and untraded. And that some rookie will become the next big star. Hello, Joy Bart, and Heliot Ramos!
And without kids, Lexi is our focus. The long hours at the ballpark are replaced by other activities, unrelated to baseball.
Personally, I like to go because of the intimacy of the ballparks, the friendly fans, and warm Arizona sun, and the cold beer. Then add in some of our favorite places to eat, and bringing Lexi on a road trip, it becomes the perfect spring break. Play ball!