If you can believe it, Opening Day is rapidly approaching and Spring Training is winding down. Every year, March brings back nostalgia of the one time I went to a Spring Training game.
The date was March 8, 2007. I’d been in Tucson, Arizona for two years and that was my last day before I was going back home to Vancouver, Washington. At the time, the Colorado Rockies called Hi Corbett Field in downtown Tucson home for the spring.
Since it was my last day in town, I decided it was about time I checked out a ball game. The Chicago White Sox made the trip over from a few blocks away for the Thursday matinee.
Honestly, I can’t tell you much about what actually happened in the game, because I only knew one or two players on the field. I know Colorado’s Todd Helton played a couple of innings, but other than that, I have no idea. I’m sure now Toronto Blue Jay Troy Tulowitzki saw a significant amount of time on the field because 2007 was his rookie season, but I didn’t know who he was at the time so I can’t say for sure.
The part that made sitting in 85-degree sun in March worth it was the intimacy and purity of watching baseball in a small venue. As Crash Davis says about Major League ballparks in Bull Durham, “…the ballparks are like cathedrals…” And he’s not wrong; MLB ballparks are enormous. Yes, they look big when you’re sitting in the stands they look big, but from field level it’s a whole different world. The park is astronomical.
Spring Training ballparks are considerably smaller, and many are used for colleges in one way or another. At the time, Hi Corbett Field felt a lot like a nice high school ballpark with metal bleachers extending just past first and third base with no more than 20 or 25 rows of seats. The small ballpark makes it feel like you’re right on top of the action, even if you’re accustom to sitting in the lower level during the regular season.
Spring Training doesn’t mean a whole lot. I’ve seen guys hit .450 in Spring Training, then flame out by May and not hit for the rest of the season. (I’m looking at you Dustin Ackley.) Because it’s “fake” baseball, it’s easy to sit and enjoy the game. Yes, you can watch your team play and watch the minor league talent as they get more time on the diamond, but the beauty of Spring Training is that you can attend any game and enjoy it just the same.
If you ever get the chance to make it to Arizona or Florida for Spring Training, jump at the chance. It’s an experience every baseball fan needs to have. Whether you’re making the trip to see your favorite team, or wanting to soak up some springtime sun and eat sunflower seeds, it’s a perfect way to celebrate the fact that the best time of year is here.
Photo by Brigham Berthold