There is something magical about Spring Training. It is not like the games you see in the season. Everyone in the stands are full of laughter and hope. Families bring their kids who can crawl on the grass and not even know that the player a few feet away is Ryan Braun. Because that is not what is important.
For the players, it is another day when smiles are on their faces as well. It is time to get into the rhythm of the game. Catch up with the fastball. Fire the ball right where you want it. Get a feel for the ball. Work on catching up with the slider. Get that winning feeling back.
It is a time when you get to see the stars of the game in a relaxed mood. The pitchers are just warming up as they throw to their 48 pitch count which will now be expanded to get ready for Opening Day. For some, the form already appears to be there. Sergio Romo, was on fire as his slider this week was amazing, especially as he completely fooled Kris Davis with the winning runners on base retiring the side and taking the win for San Francisco, with slider, after slider.
Kris Davis, for those who have not seen him at the ballpark this season, is doffing a Mohawk. Which brings us to the question: how does that ‘Do’ fit into that hat?
The fans are here to enjoy. The ‘where are you from’ is inevitable. The guy to the right of us on Friday was form a town in Wisconsin that I had never heard of. He informed us all that it was near Richland Center. When asked if there was anyone left in town now that he and his three friends had made the journey down, he informed us that his wife was still there and that she would have loved the weather. The fellow on my left was from nearby but was a Dodger fan. He is still confused about letting Kemp go. A woman in front of us showed off her amble assets and gave us all an opportunity to see the Diamondbacks logo in a whole new light…repeatedly. Which brought out a stern warning for a guy behind us as his wife (not from near Richland Center) said, ‘Stop looking’! To which he responded ‘I’m at a ball game. What am I supposed to do?’. She then knocked him over his head with a bag of Krackle Korn. Yup…there were smiles all around. ‘Go Diamond…..backs. Go.’ Or at least we think that was what was printed on her sort of cut-off jersey. You just have to love Spring Training Cactus League games.
As the game progressed, the regulars walked from the dugout to the clubhouse after the fifth inning. They’ve had their at-bats. They smile and wave to the fans who are applauding them all the way down the line to the dugout. Lucroy is looking sharp as he appears over his hamstring issue. Garza, Lohse and Fiers walk down with the other Brothers of the Mound at about the same time calling it a day and heading for the links as Nelson pitched a good Spring outing. Peralta must have been resting as he was not to be seen. Aarmis did the unbelievable as he gave one of his game bats to you young boy in the front row which drew a standing ovation. Been to a lot of baseball games in my life but I have never seen a player give one of his gamers away like that.
Over in the other dugout, there are two legit players who looked as good as ever. First is The Babe of Chase, Paul Goldschmidt, who looked in mid-season form. If only his team could win, he might be the MVP of the League. And, Mark Trumbo, is also in top form, driving in Goldy for the tieing run.
In the end, on a day when the old ballpark was nearly filled, and thousands on the grass around the outfield in front of the long line at the Leinenkugel Beer House in left center, along with the fans in the stands, sun-filled and still with smiles on their faces, enjoyed the 5-3 score in the home team’s favor. For them the point was to make sure their hope is still intact. For them, it was a day with family and friends, one that goes in the scrapbook of life, more for the parents and grandparents than their kids. But then again, on a beautiful spring day, one is reminded that her favorite thing about the ballpark in spring, in a text wishing she was here stated, eating funnel cake. Perhaps next year. Perhaps next year.
But on this beautiful spring day, as the crowd wandered out following the path of the Racing Sausages, the questions in the mind could be heard, ‘Is this the year?’