Yankees: The Rites And Rituals Of Spring Training Baseball
The Yankees and the twenty-nine other major league baseball teams will open their Spring Training camps in a few days. Like spring itself, hope springs eternally for all.
The Yankees and their fans look to the 2017 season with hope and optimism. Countless 16-wheelers have made the trip up and down the I-95 corridor from the Bronx to Tampa transporting all of the player’s equipment. And players themselves have packed their bags and are heading towards Florida. Some will arrive with campers. Others will show up in Jeeps designed to navigate the beaches. And a few brave souls might take the scenic way on their motorcycle.
But each shares a common thread. They have six weeks to prove that they have the stuff to be a New York Yankee. Each player arrives with their resume intact, but without assurances that past performance means anything. No one is guaranteed a job in baseball.
The refrain “It’s only Spring Training” will be heard countless times from Yankees coaches, broadcasters, and writers. Veterans will understand it when they’re hitting .100 a month from now, and rookies will hear it when they’re hitting .600 a month from now.
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And that veteran will toss and turn each night asking himself, “Can I still do this?” While the rookie will pace the floor with a bat in his hand saying, “I can do this, I belong here.”
Innuendos will prevail. Which field are you assigned to for the day? How far away from George Steinbrenner Stadium is that field? Does it mean anything to the Yankees front office where you play, or even if you play that day? Have you done anything to make the notice you?
We assume that spring training is still like it used to be when players arrived to get in shape for the season. And for the first few weeks, you didn’t “push it.” Except that today, players come already in shape for the season. Or, at least they’d better be ready to go from day one.
Pitchers are different. The Yankees staff will baby them to no end, even though many of them have been throwing on the side throughout the winter. Most will follow the direction given from Yankees coaches to not “push it,” but a few will check the radar gun on every pitch they throw in desperation to earn a spot in the rotation or bullpen.
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Games will be played, and stats will be accumulated. Team standings will appear in newspapers. Nothing counts until Opening Day.
But everything counts if you’re trying to be one of the twenty-five making the flight to the game on Opening Day.