HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 5, 2006

The good and the bad about spring training

By Matt Kane

In case you are still buried under that bright white blanket of snow, you may not have noticed that it is spring. At least in the world of Major League Baseball.

While we Minnesotans are plowing and snow-blowing our way around the great white north, the boys of summer are working on their baseball tans at spring training in Florida and Arizona.

Spring training has always been one of my favorite parts to the baseball season, but listening to games on the radio and watching them on television is kind of a double edged sword.

On the one side, the good one, I love watching baseball when it is played during the day, when the sun illuminates everything that is good about baseball, like the green grass, blue skies, and young faces of the players getting their shot to play with the big boys.

On the other side of the sword, the bad, spring training is kind of depressing.

Depressing because, while all those people are sitting around in their cargo shorts and tank tops, sipping $3 beers (yes, they are that inexpensive down there), I am up here in Minnesota, wearing my wool beanie and hole-infested gloves, burning my tongue on gas station, cherry-flavored cappuccinos.

I’m not bitter about not being at spring training, but I am jealous.

When else, besides during spring training, can a guy spend a day at the ballpark for under $40?

I see the Twins aren’t doing their snow birds any favors with ticket prices, but other places around the Grapefruit League are affordable.

When I lived in Florida, I used to attend Washington Nationals’ spring training games at Space Coast Stadium in Melbourne, Fla. Looking at the Nationals’ web site, I see one can get into the game for as low as $10 per seat. Add $5 for parking, $3 for a hot dog and another $3 for that beer, and $21 should do it.

My food prices are estimates, but it’s easy to see $30 will get someone a good day at the ballpark. And the suntan is free.

When is the last time you have ever spent under $30 for a regular season baseball game? And, Twins fans, good luck with that suntan.

If you ask me (even if you don’t, this is my column), spring baseball is better than the regular season.

The stadiums are smaller, meaning all fans are closer to the action. Players are a lot less stressed, and will often times converse with fans before, during, and after the games. They are also more likely to sign autographs, which is a major draw to any Joe wanting to decorate his basement recreation room.

One of the best places to see a spring game is at Dodgertown in Vero, Fla.

The one thing I like about the stadium the Dodgers use for spring training is that it doesn’t have any dugouts. Like I did during all my youth baseball seasons, the players from the Dodgers, and their opponents, sit in the open sun on benches sunken slightly below the playing field. Those players make millions of dollars, but, to me, seeing them sit in the open shows the game of baseball is still the game of baseball, no matter what level one is playing at.

With the high school state wrestling tournament occupying most of my time last week, I didn’t get to listen to any broadcasts of the Twins’ spring training games.

But that will soon change.

I will turn my radio dial to KSTP 1500 AM (remember, no more WCCO) during the next month, and listen intently as John Gordon and Dan Gladden describe the beautiful, blue skies and gentle breezes of the Florida climate. I will undoubtedly cheer when one of the Twins makes a great play, but on the inside I will be weeping because I am not there to see it.

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