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Ten Things I Hate About Spring Training

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I fall for it every year. Every season, I get excited for the advent of a new baseball season and the reporting of pitchers and catchers, and I turn practically giddy watching my first spring training game of the year. Then that game ends and I realize that I still have a month left before meaningful baseball begins.

Let’s not even begin to describe my consternation at what the World Baseball Classic has done to this timetable.

Before you come back with your indignant argument, think about what I said. Maybe you get bored with Spring Training too, and that’s OK. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your… sorry.

In honor of my already dwindling lack of concern for the glorified exhibition schedule known as Spring Training, let’s take a walk through the 10 things I hate about this magical time on the baseball calendar, from the annoying to the aggravating.

1) Inaccurate Pitching Impressions

Your favorite starter gives up six straight home runs. The career minor leaguer strikes out nine in four-innings. Nothing seems right. It’s hard to keep the thought straight that the ace is throwing nothing but his new circle change-up over and over, and your career minor leaguer is pitching like he’s the last man standing between golf and a playoff berth. Panic, uneasiness; a baseball fan craves not these things.

2) Insane Box Scores

When you actually do get a box score from a Spring Training game, it tests your love for the game in a way few things can. Have you ever tried to put together a game using a Spring Training box score? It’s not impossible, but it speeds past the length of time anyone should take browsing the stats of a single game. When a player has “PH-SS-1B-LF-C” next to his name, you know it was Spring Training.

3) Batting Practice Unis

Nothing screams “doesn’t matter” like wearing jerseys that players usually wear when what they’re doing doesn’t matter.

4) Split Squad Games

It’s bad enough that you can only get glimpses of your favorite batter or pitcher in scant ABs and IPs, but then they don’t even play together. Half of the starters went to Arizona, the other half went to Las Vegas. And neither team won.

5) Ridiculous Jersey Numbers

Nothing makes you feel like less than a fan than not knowing half of the players your favorite team marches out on the field.

Fan #1: “Ask me anything about the Red Sox, I know it all.”

Fan #2: “Ok, who’s #78?”

Fan#1: “……… I’ll be in the car.”

Again, it’s not your fault.

6) Minor league Contracts

Otherwise known as the “barely a chance in hell” players. For every great story of a player making good, it’s 100 images of washed up, beat up veterans whimpering their way into final obscurity. No, I do not want to see Edgardo Alfonzo again, thanks. Nor do I wish to ever see Sidney Ponson again.

7) Spring Training Standings

Again, false hope/paranoia. When you keep track of meaningless things like how well your team played even though guys who will never make it past Double-A decided two-thirds of the games, you set yourself up for a fall. I’m talking to you, Royals fans. Rememeber, your farm system will always be better than the rest of the league, so it makes sense that your ninth stringers give you a .650 record by the end of March.

8 ) Spring Training Coverage

Face it, we’re spoiled. We’re used to being able to see clips, highlights and full length games of any sporting event we want to watch. We live in an instant media world. But with Spring Training, we get to go back to how your grandparents used to experience the game. Scant radio broadcasts, nothing more than a box score (if that), and a small write up about the exploits of Scott Prodnog, a 36 year-old Triple-A catcher, hitting the game winning single. How can you learn who #78 is (see above) if you can’t see him play?

9) Elitism

Name the last person you knew that got to go to Spring Training that didn’t either A) live in the area, B) have a ton of money or C) have a ton of connections. You probably don’t know many. Spring Training is one great big tease, and an event few of us get to experience, no matter how meaningless the games can be.

10) The Wait

As Tom Petty would say, “waiting is the hardest part.”

For everything I wrote above, all it does it make me go crazy waiting for Opening Day. For the bright white jerseys to be brought out. The sold-out crowd cheering their team that could maybe turn it around. The manager using that killer lineup you knew he’d eventually use all spring. Taking a day off of work, just to watch as much as possible.

All Spring Training does is make that wait even worse. Teasing, poking, prodding, making you a frenzied mess by the time the season starts.

You know, come to think of it… maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

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