I got to go to my very first spring training game ever. The Padres were taking on the A’s in Mesa; I figured it would be best if I eased myself into it slowly by picking a game with two mediocre teams. Although, next to the Athletics, the Padres didn’t look too bad. Actually, there wasn’t a thing there that didn’t look too bad. I mean the A’s pitching wasn’t phenomenal, but that’s the way it is sometimes.
The entire experience was wonderful. There were sunscreen-smeared children running around everywhere, reminding us of just how adorable team apparel looks after it’s been miniaturized. Ladies were sporting white pants, which I guess that means they’re in style now as appropriate baseball attire. There were pretzels that were in the shape of a mustache and the classic $10 burger and fries combo. I nearly forgot what was it like to get that feeling of satisfaction when the first baseman gloves the throw and gets an out. Spring training is also a time when you see more umbrellas in Arizona than you ever will.
There was one little girl putting on a fine display of gymnastics, but was stopped short by her dad because she was wearing a crisp, white Diamondbacks jersey. But what can I say? If I were her parent I’d do the same thing. One simply cannot allow such an article of clothing to just get dirty no matter the excuse, “she’s just a kid, it’s what they do.”
Another thing I learned about people’s clothing choices was that spring training is really just a time to show off your best jersey whether the team on said jersey is playing or not. And while you’re at it, bring your hat along as well and show that off. I know it’s a Yankees hat and they’re currently three time zones away, playing in beautiful Florida, but this is spring training and everyone else is doing it too.
Also, if you’ve got lawn seats you’re basically detached from anything that’s happening in the stands. When out on the lawn, nobody claps, nobody stands for the singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” nor do they sing it. And one thing’s for sure: the wave would never survive. It’s also so much easier to people-watch when they’re all moving around and doing stuff instead of just sitting there in seats. I must say the one thing I didn’t enjoy was the daunting clock that counted down the two minutes and five seconds in between innings. Is it really that necessary?
So, the real reason I’m writing this article is because it’s for a project. I explained this to a young couple and asked them if I could just sit and chat with them for a while about baseball. Of course, they were very friendly and actually eager to talk to me, even after the man said they knew nothing about sports and they were probably some of the worst people to talk to for my project. But his wife said their difference was good and would give me a new perspective. Indeed, it did.
But not really. It sort of just coasted along the line of one of my own perspectives. She said they come to the games because they like the atmosphere. What’s not to like? It’s relaxing, the sun is out, the game is not too intense and doesn’t demand your complete and full attention for all nine innings of play. It’s nice. And even though they don’t even follow baseball, they still feel a little disappointed each time a game ends. He said one time the game was tied and he was ready for extra innings, but this is spring training and extra innings don’t exist.
Their 6-month-old son sleeps peacefully, as babies do, on a blanket near the fence that separates him from the field of play, and for once his parents get a chance to pay attention to the game and soak in that atmosphere that is so pleasing. Slowly, they’re becoming baseball people. Whether it’s because of their child or the atmosphere or the fact that the field is their backyard, we may never really know. But they’re here and they’ll keep coming, (because they have tickets to all 17 games at Hohokam Stadium) to see players they’ve never heard of before, to cheer on a team they don’t even have a t-shirt for, to watch a game they aren’t very fond of, but they’ll still come anyway. And that’s the beauty of baseball.