When you go to your local baseball stadium for a good ol’ version of America’s pastime, you are surrounded by tens of thousands of “die-hard” baseball fans. When you go to spring training, you are actually surrounded by thousands of die-hard fans, notice the lack of quotations.
If you think you are a die-hard baseball fan and you have yet to make the trip out to your favorite team’s spring home in Arizona or Florida, you better rethink whether you are a die-hard or not. I have been to spring training three times and every time it just gets better and better. Whether it’s the figuring out of how to sneak off to the back practice fields to watch the prospects, or figuring out which games are best, spring training can never be a waste of time or money.
Last year, I took the time to head on over to Arizona for a weekend. While I was there, I visited the spring homes of the Texas Rangers/Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers/Chicago White Sox. As I wondered around the Ranger’s facilities in Surprise, AZ, it was the first time 95% of the people around me were wearing shirts, jerseys, or hats with their team’s logo on it. Yeah when you go to a Cardinals game in St. Louis for example, it looks like everyone is wearing red or white Cardinals gear. But are they really? No. Most of them are just wearing red or white clothes. However when you go to spring training… now that’s a different story.
Rewind 24 hours. I am standing behind the Dodgers dugout as I anticipate their game. As I look down, I see one of the Dodgers’ top prospects, Jerry Sands beginning to walk towards the railing where a little kid asking for an autograph is shouting his name. What happened next however, only happens during Spring Training. Old grown men, not the typical little kids, began to rush towards the dugout to snag an autograph from what the Dodgers hope is a future all-star. Now why is this so amazing? Because as hundreds of people crowded around Sands hoping to get his autograph, I realized that only at spring training would people actually have any clue who Sands was seeing as he hadn’t made it to the MLB yet.
Spring Training 2010. I am standing inside Hohokam Stadium, the spring home of the Chicago Cubs. As I am praying for the rain to leave so that I can watch a game, I look around and see thousands of fans filing into the stadium and their seats as well. If you were to go to any MLB stadium where the chances of a rainout were at about 95%, you would see maybe a quarter of the fans arriving at the stadium compared to how many were at Hohokam that day. Yes those people probably payed to fly to Arizona and didn’t mind going to the stadium, but they didn’t have to come to the stadium at all now did they?
Spring Training is unlike anything else in sports. This is because one second you could be watching a future Hall of Famer take his first swings ever on a spring training practice field and another, you could be getting an autograph from your favorite team’s star prospect. No where else can you start a conversation with anyone around you about your team’s backup center fielder. No where else in baseball can you find thousands of fans that break as many remotes as you do in October. If you want to call yourself a die-hard baseball fan, finish reading this article, and then make plans to go to Arizona or Florida in the next few weeks. You know you will regret it if you don’t.