One of the most exciting things about the onset of spring is the end of winter. By the time the seasons actually get around to changing, even the most hearty cold weather lovers have been driven to the brink of their tolerance by the scraping of plows and shovels, having remnants of that turquoise colored ice melt caked in the soles of their boots, and covering up carefully selected outfits with heavy outerwear.
Despite some notable drawbacks, like maddeningly inconsistent weather, you would be hard pressed to find many people with a negative word about spring. George Constanza’s assessment of spring, rejuvenation, rebirth, everything’s blooming, all that crap, just about sums it up perfectly. While it doesn’t take a full-fledged member of the Audubon Society to appreciate the sights of nature in Spring, all the flowers and songbirds aren’t really the main event; it’s more that they’re emblematic of what people like about Spring, which is the promise of a fresh start, and the optimism that things will be different this year, culminating in a glorious summer of non-stop enjoyment.
This seasonal allegory is played out on baseball diamonds every year. In February, when all the fun parts of winter have been exhausted, the news that pitchers and catchers will head off to Florida and Arizona for, essentially, the most well compensated games of catch in existence, is enough to trigger paroxysms of anticipation. As the calendar points towards opening day, in the imagination of fans, no matter how putridly a given team performed the previous season, this year is definitely the year when the fresh start of spring marks the beginning of a magnificent 162 game procession.
There’s just one problem with these scenarios though. After all that time being sequestered indoors, except when absolutely necessary, no one, in baseball or in life, is ready to hit the ground running after an extended layoff.
If you’re a professional baseball player, you’ll pack your gear and like migratory birds, make for the warm climates in exotic locales like Tempe, Mesa, Fort Myers and Dunedin, to take batting practice and field ground balls against a backdrop of palm trees and tourists. In other walks of life, how you go about honing the fundamentals is less clear cut, but no less important.
Just remember, if you’re prepared, the results of all those fungo drills, all of the sweat pouring out of rubberized sweatsuits, all of the swings with weighted bats, will be obvious from the cheap seats when it matters most. Swinging for the fences before you’re in playing shape, though? That’s just a good way to tear something. This season, be ready.