In My Ohio

On the Limitless Hope of Spring Training

Darren C. Demaree
Let loose the full circumference of my curiosities! Dig a trench for every darkness winter holds! Allow that trench to be set on fire, and when you are finally warm enough start dancing with me! It’s time for baseball.

This is confusing if you haven’t been paying attention to the calendar, because baseball is a warm weather sport, and it is still dropping below freezing most days. Do not let the current temperature give you doubt that extraordinary things have already begun hundreds to thousands of miles away from us here in Ohio.

You see, Spring Training takes place elsewhere, and every team (save for last year’s champion) begins with a great hope that their team will end up elsewhere, as well. No matter which team you root for (Go Tribe!), there are currently more than a hundred young men (including minor league camps) training either in Florida or Arizona with the hopes that they will make their professional dreams come true, make the big club, and then pursue a World Series the way we fully believe they can at this point. Even the Houston Astros, who continued their streak of years with the worst record in all of baseball last year, have grand hopes that this is the year their plans will cement themselves and their selected men will contend for a ring.

The hope is overwhelming. Every baseball fan for every team has a list of five (if your team is really good) to fifteen (the Astros) breaks that if they go your team’s way it will be a historic year. We’ve been talking about them all winter. Now that those pieces are actually in play, the conjecture becomes a starry-eyed optimism. If this young player improves the way he should, if this veteran performs the way he did his career year, if this aging star can give us just one more great summer, if the manager pushes all the right buttons, if management can sign just one more starting pitcher or the left-handed bench bat we need, etc.

We have hope, and because we have hope, we have faith that there will be no trouble behind the screen door of the upcoming season.

Spring Training takes place elsewhere. It takes place mostly amongst our willingness to be excited again about something we sincerely love. It’s more than the changing weather and another chance to be champions. It’s enough distance from the reality of 162 games that we have room to dream of anything and everything. Most of life isn’t like that. Most of life is abbreviated and shortsighted. Spring Training allows you the dalliances of the what-ifs and that can be endless, because what if this is the year?

So, if Cleveland’s youthful rotation continues to improve, their shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera plays again like an All-Star shortstop, if John Axford can be a dominant closer again, if Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher can finally earn their money, if Jason Giambi can hit just three or four more late-inning homeruns, if Carlos Santana can move to third base from catcher, if Jason Kipnis can make the leap to one of the best players in baseball, and if Terry Francona does very little wrong for the second season in a row, my team will outpace every other team in the league. That’s only eight what-if’s; we must be pretty good this year.

Hopefully, whomever you root for, you are still in the throws of what Spring Training is: the largest of possibilities that you will have a glorious summer.

I, for one, like the odds that this summer will be the one that extends through October, giving us something epic to call our own.
...photo courtesy of Google Images.