Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Joy of Spring Training Is about More Than Just the Ballgame

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Joy of Spring Training Is about More Than Just the Ballgame

Article excerpt

The sun is bright, the thermometer hovers around 80 degrees, there is a gentle wind out of the west and the Tampa Bay Rays are warming up for their spring training game against the New York Yankees.

If this isn't paradise, it must be nearby.

This has been a great year for spring training in Florida. The weather has been unseasonably warm as opposed to the temperatures in the cities where many of the baseball teams play their regular season.

For visitors, a chance to see their favorite teams up close in a more informal setting can be an added bonus to a vacation planned around the beach and theme parks. For seasonal residents, spring training games are a part of their annual routine, and for those of us who are here year round, it is just another reason to love where we live.

I admit to being a football fan; it's my sport of choice, even with all its inherent problems. During March Madness, which is now - - and for the record, I'm tired of the Rob Lowe commercials but love the ones with the former NBA stars -- I can really get into college basketball.

But when the Tampa Bay Rays take the field at Charlotte Sports Park, just a short drive from my house, I feel a pull to be part of that action.

Some might question the word "action" when it comes to baseball. If the pitcher is doing his job and fielding is what it should be, games can seem to lack the drama often associated with more fast- paced sports. Particularly during spring training, when the team's management is working to refine the lineup for the regular season, there can be innumerable pitching changes with the accompanying break in the "action." A friend who is not a baseball fan has said she prefers games that include a clock, and thus a reasonable expectation of time commitment. One good thing about spring training: The games can last no more than 10 innings.

For the fans, though, baseball games, particularly during spring training, are much more than just what's going on with the players. There is the chance to be outside on a nice spring day and have the opportunity to hear fellow fans -- baseball experts one and all -- give their opinion on how the game should be played, how the umpires should call balls and strikes, when the base runner should go for a steal and all the rest. …

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