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Spring Break… er, uh, Spring Training

Oh, Hey There… How YOU doin’… could I interest you in a Derek Jeter gift basket?

It’s been awhile since there has been new information on our front page. It’s been a hectic month… dealing with a record amount of entrants for the 2012 Home Run Derby (as automated as it looks, it’s very labor intensive for The Commish during the month of March), dealing with our day jobs, and dealing with Spring Break… I mean, Spring Training trips.

Which brings us to the second item to add to your baseball bucket list right behind rooting for a sub-0.500 team:

Attend Spring Training stadium hopping for multiple days.

A group of Kings of Cork regulars have been attempting to attend Spring Training every season (in fact, we should all thank one of these guys for bringing the Kings of Cork to us since it started in his previous office and became extinct before yours truly grabbed the torch). And regardless of how many Benjamins our group brings home a year, the group tries to keep it college level classy. We are talking dirty, cheap hotels, the cheapest seats you can find at the ballpark, and gambling on everything from the total bill at lunch, passing the cup, cab rides, or how many times certain words are said throughout the day.

Those are only our group’s Spring Training trip traditions (flying into wrong airports may have became a new tradition this year) and are in no way requirements for the Spring Training trip you must put on your baseball bucket list. The joy of Spring Training is the interaction fans get with the current star players and the future you talented players. It also doesn’t hurt that you have the choice of two different warm and sunny destinations.

Both destinations have their advantages and disadvantages. The Cactus league in Arizona has a maximum distance of 45 driving miles which makes it easy to see two games a day in two different stadiums. There are also over 150 golf courses in this same 45-60 mile diameter so don’t forget your clubs. And ASU campus is in the center of this area and improves the night life experience. The Grapefruit league is a bit more spread out in Florida. The closest drive between stadiums might be 45 minutes. The big market teams are present in Florida (Atlanta, Phillies, Yankees, and Boston) which always attract a good crowd. And don’t forget about all the Disney and MGM attractions in Florida.

Honestly, Spring Training is one of the best baseball events of the year. ‘Hope’ is still in the air that this is the year for your favorite team. You get to see the organizations’ future players duel with today’s great pitchers. You have full access (well, almost full access) to all of the teams’ facilities which means that you can watch the highest paid player in the league take pitches in a cage less than 20 feet away. Players also tend to interact more with the fans in games that don’t really ‘matter’. For example, our group witnessed a 3-inning conversation between a bachelor party and Vernon Wells this season. It ranged from Vernon’s Spring Training performance to finding out that Vernon doesn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because he isn’t Irish. You also get the chance to run into GM’s and other baseball executives at camp (we got a glimpse of the now infamous Billy Bean).

You never know what you will see in a Spring Training game. Some highlights from this year:

Well, you get the idea. It’s a much more laid back atmosphere than in the regular season. And I can’t stress enough the ability (depending on game start times) to watch 3 games in 3 stadiums with 6 different teams. There just aren’t many cities you can accomplish that feat during the regular season. And no where can you even attempt to see 14 teams in 5 days for the price and minimal effort in spring training.

I can cross Spring Training off my baseball bucket list (but I will still continue to go back) and you should try to too.