Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Training Day One

Spring training began today with pitchers and catchers reporting throughout Florida and Arizona (the Grapefruit and Cactus circuits, respectively). This is my first time to attend. I can safely say nothing happened. I was out there for two hours in the morning and then an hour and a half this afternoon.

I saw Cliff Lee and Ryan Madsen doing a short long-toss session around 10:30 this morning and a couple players running steps inside Bright House Field, but otherwise no one showed up for any of us to view (although Jesse Biddle and Brody Colvin showed up in Brody's white pickup truck to do a bit of throwing on one of the Carpenter Complex fields and were turned away).

What I did see, however, were interesting fans being...somewhat hilarious. I got to Richie Ashburn Field just before 10:00. There were a handful of fans peering through fences to see if any players might show up on the field. And then there was the group of mid-twenties yahoos dressed in Phillies garb to the nines, a bleacher level lined with brown dead soldier beer bottles. All five were chugging away on what had to be their third or fourth brews, yelping loudly, bragging about running over turtles and stomping on lizards at their hotel.

A security guard came over and told them in no uncertain terms that they were not allowed to have beer on the property. Actual surprise and dis-belief by the kids, then they packed up and galumphed out to the parking lot where they attempted to perform a quick, makeshift tailgate party...and were again, gently nudged off the property.

What I liked most was that here you had edgy, lost Philadelphians doing what they thought was just fine (drinking massive quantities of beer out in the open at 10:00 AM on a Sunday morning in front of several families with young kids) and we also had security guards gently and matter of factly shooing them away. Not a hint of disgust, anger, or hostility coming from these wise and gentle men. Not even incredulity or surprise (I'm sure they've seen it time and time again over the years). It was goofy and a reminder that I might have driven 1,018 miles south of Philadelphia but that Philly still lives where ever I go, but it was also a very intelligent and wise moment of grace by these men facing down these fools.

I wish I'd had enough Philly in me to take a picture. It was truly funny and sweet at the same time.

Autograph Seekers, waiting...
As soon as Lee and Madsen finished throwing, one of the dads in the group started yelling across the field, "Cliff! Ryan! Are you signing today?" The guy didn't get that he needed to be standing up at the top of the field near the player's parking lot waiting for autographs. "Come on! Cliff? Ryan? Are you guys signing?" He picked up his kid and pointed to him then held up a ball. I was actually more offended by this behavior (a Philly transplant by the way) than the beer drinking fluffheads.

All of this struck me. I was there because I love the game and because I love this team and because this team loves Jesse Biddle. I love baseball more than anything else in life. Everyone was gone by 10:45 but I sat there on those bleachers just staring at the empty fields, feeling the sun on my face and the wind coming out of the east rustle my hair and I felt so content and quiet.

Monday morning's crowd got an eye full. 
But what was it that so enveloped autograph hounds and party animals alike to show up and be so frivolously demonstrative? What do people need out of this behavior and this frenzied buzz of exuberance that they could let themselves be so doggedly willing to come so close to the line over which is self-debasement? I'm not asking out of a sense of superiority or as if I'm the adult in the game of baseball. I'm not an adult, for sure. But the dedication to collecting or to being drunk off your ass at 10:00 on a Sunday morning and there for the start of yet another season for your team... ? Wow. Amazing.

See you out there bright and early tomorrow morning. Wear sunscreen.

1 comment:

Ron said...

Season is off to a great start. It will be interesting without any sure fire powerhouse.