The Torture of Spring Training


Like most baseball fans, the countdown to when pitchers and catchers report is an established fabric of my calendar. Nothing heralds spring like the first life signs of baseball season–especially on a day like today, with Chicagoland highs in the upper 50s. Amazing weather, and the first day of the 2011 White Sox adventure–coincidence? I think not. I think it’s just proof that baseball rules the world in one way or another.

There is much romance and nostalgia about spring training and the beginning of the season. We see it summed up by the famous words of onetime commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, among others. In my case, my love for baseball dwarfs any interest in football, basketball or hockey, so a new baseball season truly represents the turning of  a year for me.

In this era of new media and nonstop coverage, spring training is even more of an anticipated event. If you’re a Sox fan like me, you check out Twitter, Facebook and the hundreds of sports sites to read those first spring quotes from Ozzie and the overintense Jake Peavy and see those first photos of Danks and Buehrle tossing to AJ and Castro. You brace yourself for the inevitable feel-good fluff pieces that come out of every spring: so-and-so is in “the best shape of his life,” which is apparently as easy as giving up Cap’n Crunch. But in all seriousness, has Chris Sale really put on enough to surpass beanpole status?

After those first few days of workouts and the endless photos you pore over (if you’re lucky, you’ll find a 8 second “Twitvid” of Brent Lillibridge fielding grounders), you start another countdown to the first spring training game. In the case of this season, we’re 11 days away from that now. I’ve cleared my schedule and will tune in intently, following every player and keeping track of all the game broadcasts for that first week of games. It’s SPRING TRAINING, DAMMIT!

And then, year after year, after those first few games (with the TV games and Cubs matchups being particular novelties), you remember just how dreadfully dull spring baseball is. You start to wonder if it’s really worth listening to Sox great Bill Melton’s inept and mouthbreathing commentary on the free webcasts. Sure, you’ll love Adam Dunn’s first at-bats, Peavy’s first appearances, all of Chris Sale’s starts. Maybe even signs of life from someone like Lastings Milledge. But then you have to deal with players that most no one has heard of. This is particularly the case in a farm system as weak as that of the White Sox. Sure, some looks from Eduardo Escobar, Josh Phegley, Jared Mitchell and the already-disappointing Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers might be met with something amounting to mild amusement, but outside of that there simply isn’t much to care about.

After those first few games will begin the final countdown–Opening Day, obviously.

So everyone, please, by all means join me and enjoy yourselves with that first rush of videos and photos. Savor the sounds of Sox baseball on the Score in 11 days. Feel free to analyze whether or not Chris Sale’s added bulk will make an impact on his pitching.

Just remember, we’re still an excruciating month and a half away from Opening Day.