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The fog lifts
Spring training, where everything is made up and the points don't matter
The fog is thick as day breaks, the kind that makes your world feel like an island. The school across the street doesn’t exist as far as I can tell. It will exist later, of course, but it doesn’t in this moment. It’s just me on this island.
The light of an emerging morning is illuminated by the fog, cigarette smoke in an old movie theatre - a projector for the day ahead.
I try to capture its aura on my iPhone, a fools errand. You can’t capture an aura. As I drive my partner up the mountain to work, the fog rises. Or rather, we rise above it. The day is beautiful and the sky is blue, a jarring departure from home. We look at eachother perplexed. The day is taking on a different mood than we had imagined.
Here is where I insert a line about how rising above the literal fog on the day that baseball returns is a metaphor for life. And while that seems trivial and forced, the thought crosses my mind that on this day, in this moment, just a week after we were led to believe that baseball might not return for the foreseeable future, it is back at full force.
I’m giddy - the kind of grown man giddy that only sports can do to us. While my team, the Blue Jays, didn’t return until the next day, at that moment it didn’t matter. Baseball is back - the crack of the bat, the green of the grass, the blue of the sky.
Ultimately, the sun emerges and the snow starts to fade. Usually this is accompanied by the return of spring training. Better late than never this year, I guess.
There’s something about an Ontario winter that is so soul-sucking it can leave you debilitated. Every year there’s at least one day where I believe in my heart that I will never see the sun again, that my lot in life is now to live in a frozen hellscape of a snowy tundra.
But I’m batting .1000 on surviving winter. Eat your heart out, Ted Williams.
Spring training is its own kind of baseball, alien from the meaningful 162 games we adore during the regular season. The energy is different.
Spring training is optimism. Fans, hungered for the game, flock to Arizona or Florida to watch their teams play in games that won’t count. Any team, conceivably, can still win. The rookies can shine or falter without really hurting their standing in the team. It’s televised practice with another team present.
Does that stop us from hanging on every at-bat? Of course not.
“Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter” is the slogan for legendary improv television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and it's rather apt for spring training as well. We’ve seen teams mutually agree to finish games after five games. Last week we saw the Rangers defeat the Guardians 25-12. The Guardians used 11 pitchers, none of them going more than four outs. That is spring training. Wins and losses are nothing. And in a way, that’s the most gorgeous version of this game. But like any meaningless act, it does get tedious. Fans grow restless for games that matter. We like to rank things, to know which is better. Does it matter if the Blue Jays are better than the Orioles? It does to us.
Before long, the endless enthusiasm that engulfs baseball fans on the first days of spring training becomes a groundhog day-like thirst for change.
We want our lives to matter. I don’t know enough to say its human nature, but it would not surprise me if it was. As a non-religious man, I’m of the belief that what I do on this planet is my legacy. And while some people can use that to suggest life doesn’t matter, I think the opposite. It means that the time we spend here is all we have. We don’t want to waste it watching meaningless baseball.
Baseball is quirks and stats and men chasing balls around a field. It is arguments at home plate and hot dogs with friends in the cheap seats. It is staying up late for a road game and celebrating the little wins. It’s the aura of a sport with 200 years of history hanging over its head. It is an American pastime struggling to keep pace with the world around it.
My iPhone isn’t going to capture any of that either.
When I was playing with the idea of launching Junk Ball Lover’s Club, I wanted it to be my creative outlet for the kind of baseball-based writing I wanted to see more of. As things continued to come together, I started to think about the idea of having other young creatives showcase their work to a baseball-specific audience. Today, we feature our first contributor.
Garth Iorgy is a creative type from Ontario with a passion for baseball and the Toronto Blue Jays. He has decided to flex his writing muscle on Medium. His first piece is titled “Better Than Trout: The Randal Grichuk Story”, dealing with Randal Grichuk’s career to this point, up until his recent trade from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Colorado Rockies. Below is a snippet from the piece.
You can read an excerpt below, and the piece in its entirety here: https://medium.com/@albjornaa/better-than-trout-the-randal-grichuk-story-25bf6f2ef422
Alright…let me get this out of the way. Randal Grichuk is no Mike Trout. Mike Trout, along with Ken Griffey Jr., is the best baseball player I have ever seen with my own two eyes. There is really no comparison other than they both play in the outfield for a Major League Baseball team. But on June 9th, 2008, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim decided that Randal Grichuk was better than the man who would become known as The Millville Meteor, Michael Nelson Trout.
Holding both the 24th and 25th selections in that year’s amateur draft, the Halos selected Trout with the lower pick. Many great MLB players were drafted ahead of both of them with guys like Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and A.J. Pollock going earlier in the draft. But for literally 5 minutes, Randal Grichuk was a better prospect than Mike Trout.
Of course, this draft order could have gone either way. Trout could have been 24th. Randal 25th. In the grand scheme of baseball, it didn’t really matter. But it wasn’t in that order. Randal was chosen before the greatest player of this generation by the same team.
Grichuk was a star player at an early age. He played in the 2003 and 2004 Little League World Series. He was an All-American High School player. Grichuk was a star in Texas before he was 18. After 4 years in the minors, where he would battle injuries and players higher up on the depth chart (like the phenom Trout), he was traded to St. Louis. He was only on the Angels 40-man roster for 2 days.
If you’re a creative person who would like to showcase your work in the newsletter, please get in touch. I would be happy to feature your work to an audience of rabid baseball fans.
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