Mar 2, 2014; Melbourne, FL, USA; Washington Nationals shortstopIan Desmond
signs autographs before the Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 10-3 in a spring training exhibition game at Space Coast Stadium. Mandatory Credit:David Manning
-USA TODAY Sports
In some ways spring training is the best and most exciting time of year for a baseball fan. Every fan can squint hard and believe their team can make the playoffs. The season is a blank slate. There have been no wins, no losses and no team is in the bottom of the division.
Spring training games are fun. Fans get to see their favorite players, sentimental favorites and some of the young talent in the organization. I am not one of those folks with a fantasy team who pays attention to the batting average of every player at the Double-A level. I couldn’t tell you who most of those guys are.
But during spring training, fans like me get to see some of the younger players in the Nationals organization and play talent evaluator. Most of the spring training invitees won’t make the majors, but it has to be exciting for them as baseball players to be at spring training. For some of the players it may be the best time in their playing careers. It’s neat to watch these guys get their half a cup of coffee in the bigs.
As a fan, I am also watching spring training games to try to figure out, along with the Nationals coaches and front office, how the pieces will fit together. How will Danny Espinosa handle the bat? Is he fully recovered from his injury problems? Who will win the fifth starter job? Who will be in the bullpen? What will the bench look like? We all have our ideas after watching the games and it is fodder for discussion with other fans.
I also like watching the core Nationals at this point in the season and trying to see if I can suss out what kind of year Jayson Werth or Ian Desmond or Bryce Harper will have based on how they handle their business during spring training games. It’s like reading tea leaves, and we all know it doesn’t mean anything. It gives you bragging rights when you make some statement about how a player will do this season based upon what you saw during spring training and you turn out to be right. You spend the rest of the year bragging about it. Of course, the twenty other predictions you made–which turn out to be wrong–are quickly forgotten and never mentioned again.
Thanks to the MLB Network, I am enjoying wall to wall baseball every day. Not only am I getting a look at the Nationals, I am getting to see other teams and their young talent. In one respect MLB Network is as bad as ESPN–there is never a day when a Yankees or Red Sox game isn’t televised. Some days we get both teams, and they aren’t playing each other. I heard about Ryan Braun getting booed at his first spring training plate appearance, but I didn’t see it. I think the Yankees were on again.
That, however, is a minor complaint. During the regular season we don’t have the luxury of twelve hours of continuous baseball games. Spring training games can be taped in the afternoon and played on television at night. No problem. Since the standings don’t matter the games don’t have to be live to be watched and televised.
MLB Network also gives me a look at lots of palm trees and cactus and sunny warm weather. It makes me want to go to spring training. I always say I will go next year, but it never happens between work commitments and making sure the kids get up and get to school. My youngest child will be graduating from high school this year. One of my reasons for not getting to spring training will be resolved. Maybe next spring I can get to Florida and see if spring training in person is as much fun as watching on television and dreaming about how wonderful the team is going to be this year.