I sat back in my desk chair, shifting my focus from the work on my computer to the dreary landscape outside. It was another gray day where the sun wasn’t even attempting to come out. Cold rain pelted the windows, chilling me to the core and making me question if spring would really arrive. With a feeling of despair and a sigh, I opened my inbox to see Spring 2019 Yankees Baseball as the subject of a recent message. Even though this was my son’s little league schedule, the idea of baseball season starting instantly warmed me.
Thomas, my 12 year old, has been playing baseball with the same team for the past four years. For six weeks in the fall and eight in the spring, I love spending part of my Sundays cheering for Thomas and his and his teammates from my folding chair. The email about the upcoming season transported me back to watching my son play first base from the sidelines and seeing Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals first baseman, during a spring training game in Florida as the team prepped for opening day.
Just a couple weeks ago I was a guest of Toyota for #ToyotaGrandSlam, a three day road trip where we drove a variety of vehicles to stadiums in Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. With Jeff Bogle of OTWK as my co-pilot, we enjoyed the luxury of time for conversation in cars with bloggers in smooth rides that had thoughtful features and sporty styling.
Yes, I’m talking about you Blue Flame Rav4 (above) with your racing stripe and brilliant orange rubberized cordless phone charging tray and accessory shelf underneath the glove box and also you, surprisingly roomy Camry with your glossy red exterior, quilted leather seats, and spacious trunk!
During our three days on the road we watched MLB players swing for the fences. During spring training conditions that felt more like summer, we watched the Yankees take on the Red Sox, Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals, and a game between the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers. These epic rivalries in more intimate venues with passionate fans made me even more excited for opening day at ballparks around the country.
Major League Baseball spring training in Florida is a 130 year tradition that baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Willie Mays, and Roberto Clemente participated in and one that continued with recent greats like Derek Jeter and Miguel Cabrera. In 1888-1899 the then Washington Senators traveled to Jacksonville, the farthest south any team had previously traveled to prepare for their upcoming season. Today the Washington Nationals are part of the 15 team Grapefruit League that head south to Florida from the colder north to soak up the sunshine and prepare for opening day to kick off the start of a new season.
Like the Nats, I was more than ready to soak up the Florida sunshine during spring training. I loved the feeling of being back in the ballpark after a long winter sitting in familiar plastic seats, concessions in hand and chatting with strangers about the action on the field.
I treasured watching favorite Nats players like Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer, Anthony Rendon, and Steven Strasburg up close as they got ready for the season. It was fun to see what the newer players will bring to the field as the opening pitch is thrown out today and as I watched, I remembered all the great lessons that baseball has the power to teach our kids.
There’s no shortage of lessons in teamwork or interactive math lessons about batting averages, home runs, RBIs, time on base and more for young fans who love the game. It’s always a pleasure watching players come together and work as a team the game throughout the season. Pro ball players make the game look easy, regardless if you’re right at first base for spring training or seeing the game from high above in the cheap seats during the regular season.
Back at my desk, I craved the feel of the sun on my shoulders like I did during spring training and last year’s regular season games. I wanted to be back watching from my folding chair as and the upper deck. I opened another browser window to compare my son’s baseball schedule to the Nat’s home games to continue our family tradition of seeing as many games as we can.
Today the opening pitch will be thrown out at Nats Park under sunny blue skies. While the temperatures will be mild, it will be a great day for baseball. Thank goodness it won’t be long until spring turns to summer and I’m back at the ballpark feeling the sun that I crave on my shoulders.
I was a guest of Toyota for the Toyota Grand Slam road trip. No compensation was received for this post.