Monday, March 03, 2008

In Praise of Spring Training

Each sport has its own individualistic appeal. There’s something unique to enjoy about each one. There’s one thing, though, that professional baseball does much better than any of the other leagues: the practice games, a.k.a. Spring Training. I live near Phoenix, which is one of the major centers of Spring Training. The closest games to me are held at Scottsdale Stadium, which is the winter “home” of the San Francisco Giants. For years I have always tried to attend at least one Spring Training game. In years where because of my work schedule I don’t make it out there, I always feel as though springtime wasn’t quite complete.

Scottsdale has been a spring training venue since the mid-1950’s. Winter visitors started to vacation there partially to see their favorite teams play. This exposure helped put the town on the map as a great place to live, and contributed to its phenomenal growth.

Spring Training games are great fun for a variety of reasons. The spring training stadiums are often smaller, more intimate venues than the major league ballparks. You get the feeling you are closer to the players; it gives you a chance to observe them interacting with one another. The relaxed atmosphere of these games lends themselves to getting a group of friends together and enjoying an afternoon of good conversation and sunshine. If you happen to discuss business for a couple of minutes, you can even avoid the guilty feeling of having skipped work.

Though ticket prices for spring training games have escalated in recent years, they are still a bargain compared to another sport’s practice games, The NFL. Good baseball seats can be had for $20-$25, whereas I have attended NFL preseason games where similar seats cost more than $75—this to see players many of whom most likely won’t even be on the roster in September. Also, the games are held at the NFL teams’ stadiums, and they often attract large crowds, so you have the usual, regular season, hassles with parking, standing in line for food, etc.

For my money, and time, spring training baseball games are much more enjoyable. So I’m looking forward to March 22, when the Giants play the Milwaukee Brewers at Scottsdale Stadium. There will be lots of winter visitors from Wisconsin there, which means an opportunity to make new friends and talk about…

Baseball, sure, but also about the Green Bay Packers’ prospects for 2008.

Because for football fans, there really is no offseason, and that’s what the National Football League does better than any of the other major sports—make sure they’re always on our minds.

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