Let me preface this by harkoning back to last night’s jag of a post fueled by another full day at the ballpark and a veggie burger/side salad combo thang served at one of the many chain establishments that have sprouted up throughout Clearwater proper. If you like chain places, Clearwater is the spot because the strip malls filled with big-box stores have sprouted where once were palmettos and reeds of tall marsh grass. Now, instead of swamps, it’s Target, Borders, Costco, Wal-Mart, Taco Bell, etc., etc.
If you thought the Philadelphia suburbs (and now exurbs) were over-developed, you ought to check out the Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. in Clearwater. Either the folks really want to be homogenized by chain stores or they get really, really peeved if they have to drive the SUV more than three minutes to get a venti mochachino or an industrial sized vat ‘o mayonnaise from the Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club or whatever else folks go to.
Remember, you need a membership to go to those places. It’s that exclusive.
Anyway, the easy and relaxed part about spring training is the baseball. The guys playing and coaching are truly having a blast playing ball, getting into shape (yeah, a few of the guys look a little paunchy), and pushing away the stress before the games start to count. It almost seems as if the teams should get together during the afternoon and choose up sides.
Yes, the atmosphere is that informal.
But there is a misconception that the scribes covering the ballclub for the seven weeks of spring training are having the same type of relaxation and fun. In fact, I know for a fact that more than a few of the writers were taunted (taunted!) with the ol’ rolling of the eyes and the, “It must be nice to go watch baseball in Florida and write about it for seven weeks…”
First of all, unironic sarcasm is a character flaw. My suggestion for folks that engage in such banter are the books of Deepak Chopra. Mellow out, dudes.
Secondly, it’s not all fun and games for the scribes toiling away in Florida. Actually, it’s no vacation at all – hell; it’s hardly even a picnic. For the writers, the day starts before the sun comes up and it ends long after the sun goes down. Sure, writing about baseball is hardly the same thing as digging ditches, but by the end of flexing all of those brain waves, the scribes are too tired to spend any time at the beach or the Target. Sometimes they are even way too tired to stumble back to the hotel, crawl into the whirlpool and crack open a bottle of Chablis. Most of the time the guys fall asleep in front of the TV with a half-eaten hot pocket stuck to their dirty Motorhead t-shirts.
No, nobody should live like that.
Perhaps most importantly, the writers back up and move away from friends and family for two months. While life goes on back in Philly, the fellas are trying to chase down Ryan Howard to glean sometime of emotion from him regarding his new salary.
Oh, but on occasion there is a chance to unwind. For instance, take what went the other night…
After the Phillies-FSU game was mercifully rained out and all of the stories about Brett Myers-over-Cole Hamels-as-the-Opening-Day-starter stories had been filed, it was nearly 11 p.m. Famished after another 12-hour day, the writers wanted to go out for something to eat but quickly realized every place was closed. It was a Tuesday night, after all, and in the straight world folks don’t keep baseball hours. That’s especially the case at the Sand Dollar – a favorite spot amongst the baseball-types for its all-you-can-eat grouper buffet.
Knowing that the joint was closed, the gang somehow coaxed the new guy, David Murphy of the Daily News, to go back to his room at the Holiday Inn Express for his piece. When Murphy returned, the rest of the guys talked the newest member of the baseball-writing group into forcing the place to stay open after closing so the guys could attack the buffet and eat everything in sight.
Thanks to Murphy and his pearl-handled berretta, a good time was had by all.
Of course, that was until the Clearwater P.D. showed up and put the kibosh on the evening. Though the rest of the scribes got off with just a written warning from the police, Murphy is still awaiting arraignment in the Pinellas County Jail. Word is his bail was set at $50,000 bond and until he raises the dough, the only meals he’s going to get are the three squares paid for by the taxpayers of Pinellas County.
Fortunately, the kid smuggled in his Blackberry from which he has been able to file his dispatches about the ballclub for the paper as well as updates for his blog, “High Cheese,” about life in the hoosegow.
We’re all hoping Murphy gets out soon, but in the meantime it seems as if the clink is the best place for him.
Anyways, the writers got up early on Friday morning to catch the morning “B” game at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. That’s where Myers will begin his spring action in attempt to prepare himself for his big, Opening Day start back in Philly against the nine from Washington, D.C. on March 31.
Me? Well, as I type this sentence I’m about 32,000-feet over the deep, America south jetting back to snowy Philadelphia and then home to The Lanc. Yeah, a few more days in Florida to chronicle the comings and goings of the Phillies would have been kind of interesting, but I miss my two boys and with any luck I should be back home before bedtime.
That, folks, was ironic sarcasm. See how different it is from unironic sarcasm?