Tag Archives: Spring Training

Baseball: The Winter Game

Yes, baseball is the summer game. But that is precisely why it resonates so warmly in the dead of winter for those of us in cold climes.

As I write this post on a Sunday morning from my home in  New Jersey, a good deal of snow still dominates the view through the picture window of our family room. A leonine storm is headed our way today on this second day of March, threatening to dump several inches of snow and probably a bit of ice on us once more. The forecast low temperature for Monday is 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Yet this afternoon I can turn on the transistor radio or, more accurately, fire up the MLB app on my iPhone or iPad and listen to a spring training game from Florida or Arizona. Yesterday, I tuned in to disappointment: the Indians and Giants were both rained out, and the Phillies had wrapped up. I thought I’d try the Brewers-Dodgers, but the only options were LA broadcasts (no thank you). So I managed to catch a couple innings of the Pirates and Rays before errands chased me off the couch and into the cold.

It’s been a long winter across much of the United States, and I’ve had little inspiration to post the last couple of months. But the sound of bat meeting ball coming through a tinny speaker from a distant Snowbird stadium does wonders for one’s mood. It is hope, springing eternal.





Fixing the date for the annual Baseball Solstice: Dec. 29, 2013

The World Series is behind us, at least some of the Red Sox are shaving off their beards and baseball fans the world over are gathering scraps to light the fire for the Hot Stove League. It’s a time for reflecting on the season past and recognizing that we have several fallow months ahead before the games resume in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues in 2014.

In our annual ritual, the high priests of baseball here at the Ball Caps Blog and Countdown to Spring Training have pointed our Houston Astrolabes to the sky and fixed the date for the annual Baseball Solstice. It will be Dec. 29, the midpoint in the days between the final out of Cardinals-Bosox series and the first exhibition games of Spring Training.

The series ended Oct. 30, and the first exhibition games will be played Feb. 26 by six teams in Florida. (Sorry, Yankees fans. We’re not recognizing the Feb. 25 game against Florida State.)

We encourage all baseball fans to mark the solstice in a meaningful way.

Play a Wiffle ball game in the snow with the kids on the block. Thumb through your old sets of baseball cards. Pick up the phone and call Dad to thank him for insisting you not throw a curve until you were 15. Venture out into the night and look for the Star of Cooperstown.

Whatever you choose, make it a celebration of the One True Game.

This year’s spring training caps are hideous

Let me repeat that headline: This year’s spring training baseball caps are hideous.

As my long blogging layoff will attest, I’ve paid little heed to the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues these past few weeks. So what I saw on a television set in a neighborhood shop a short while ago hit me harder than it might have otherwise. On the tube was a Tigers-Mets game. When I saw the Mets’ caps, I blanched.

From a distance, they look like something for a beer league softball team. On closer inspection, there’s Mr. Met running the bases — in the wrong direction. (Yeah, it’s the Mets, so why should I be surprised?)

I was vaguely aware of the unveiling of these new cap models when they were announced a couple of months back but I didn’t pay attention. After doing a Google search for images of the new caps, I wish I’d skipped the spring altogether.

The white-billed Yankees’ caps may be the worst of the lot. Or maybe it’s the egg-splatter Tampa Bay Rays model. All in all, these caps look like they belong on sale by street vendors in the seedier sections of any number of Rust Belt cities.

I started this blog based on my love of baseball caps, but I have standards. Most of these spring training caps are devoid of artistic merit and devalue the brands of the teams they represent. The teams see this merchandising as a profit center, which is why there’s a continuous stream of new models.

Sorry, MLB. I ain’t buying.



Not to blaspheme against spring training, but I’m still waiting for the real baseball season

The sun was shining and baseball was on the radio again this weekend, and that’s marvelous. But it’s not the real thing.

I listened to bits of a couple of games, and I enjoyed hearing the sounds of the ballpark again: the crack of the bat (yes, the Giants got some hits!), the banter of the announcers, the vendors calling “cold beer here!” in the Arizona desert.

Split squads with 17 pitchers taking the mound have some charm, and outfielders with uniform numbers more suitable to defensive linemen in the NFL make for some interesting moments.

Like an aging pitcher getting his arm primed for the regular season, I’m doing a little here, a little there, getting my baseball muscles ready for April. But I’m not going to overdo it.


Ready for the season with the MLB At Bat app

With the first exhibition games about to start this afternoon, I downloaded the MLB At Bat app last night onto to my smartphone.

I had Sirius satellite radio for a couple of seasons, which enabled me to listen to the home broadcasts of all the major league games. But I only had access in my car.

Last year I got the MLB app about midway through spring training on the recommendation of a friend and fell in love with it. With all the broadcasts from the home and visiting networks for each game, the app is a fabulous way to enjoy baseball. You can even listen in Spanish – “Adios, pelota!” – for some teams.

I’m not really tempted by the all-access TV package. As much as I love baseball, I don’t have enough time in my life to plop in front of a screen and watch a gozillion games.

I listen to the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics on the radio in my car, and I catch them and a range of other teams on the smartphone while I’m grilling dinner or doing yard work and other chores around the house.

Baseball is the soundtrack for my leisure time.

Gaining a new appreciation for the cactus in Cactus League

A family matter brought my wife and me to Tucson for a few days, the closest I’ve ever gotten to Spring Training in Arizona. While time did not permit us to travel north to the Phoenix area where the major league teams are training, I was able to stop by briefly at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, where the Cleveland Indians trained many years during my youth.

In this photo taken outside the park Tuesday, I’m wearing my San Francisco Giants 2010 world champions cap and a Tim Lincecum T-shirt. I’d put them on not knowing I’d be at the park, but it worked out well for the photo – a little dig at the Giants’ National League West rivals, the Colorado Rockies. They trained in Tucson until moving to new Phoenix facilities this spring.

Later in the day, we took a drive west of town into Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park. It was in the latter that I had a close encounter with some “jumping” cholla cactus pods that attached themselves to my jeans. I used my iPhone to brush the first one off but the cactus dug its hooks into the index finger of my left hand. Others stuck into my left leg. I’ll spare you the details of removing them, but tweezers were involved.

I’m grateful my pitching hand wasn’t affected!

Spring training for readers: It’s time to report!

While major league teams are breaking out the bats and balls in Arizona and Florida, it’s time for fans to break out the baseball books.

About 20 years ago, I started a personal tradition as spring approaches of finding a new book about baseball to read in anticipation of Opening Day. I have my 2011 edition selected: “Fifty-nine in ’84: Old Hoss Radbourn, Barehanded Baseball & The Greatest Season a Pitcher Ever Had.”

Since grade school, I’ve been a voracious reader. Baseball books have always been in the rotation amid the novels and poetry and biographies and histories I read. As a schoolboy, I devoured all the John R. Tunis books I could find at the neighborhood library. At the age of 9, I thought “Buddy and the Old Pro” was the best thing I’d ever read.

I got the Spring Training tradition going when I was living in Seattle in the late 80s and early 90s. I did a fair amount of business travel back then. I picked up a copy of the “Cult Baseball Players” anthology  at a shop at Sea-Tac Airport, almost certainly because there was a chapter on my childhood hero, Rocky Colavito. I imagine I read that chapter before takeoff.

Somewhere over the Cascades, I reached the chapter on Tug McGraw, and I got a delightful surprise. It was written by Marty Sutphin, an Associated Press colleague who worked as an editor in New York. I sent Marty the book and he autographed it for me, and – years after his too-early death – it has a special spot on my bookshelf.

Over the years I’ve read one and sometimes two or even three “Spring Training” books, most of them non-fiction with a smattering of novels for good measure. I reckon that’s how I came to read the “Mickey Rawlings” series of baseball murder mysteries set in the World War I era by Troy Soos.

I’ll be going back in time even farther this year with the Old Hoss book. I’m looking forward to it immensely.