(Photo: Amanda Fewer/Baseball Canada)
Spring is back and it's time for baseball once again, only a few months after an amazing year of baseball ended on a happy offseason for a team who finally got their championship after 108 years of waiting. It’s going to be hard to beat a year like that, but this game keeps getting better and keeps surprising me.
Players are in camp and it really feels like the dog days of summer are approaching fast. The best part of spring training is when you get to see the boys that you haven't seen all offseason. Really feels like a family brought back together. The first weeks or so are a lot more relax than anything else: talk to the guys about their vacations, go through the routine of light 40-minute practices and see where you are physically. It's a great feeling to come to camp because most of the time everyone is healthy and excited to start the season. We all know that it's the beginning of a very long marathon, so the veterans who already have a job are taking spring to get ready for the season.
But for a lot of other guys, it's go time, it’s time to show the coaching staff and other players that you are ready to make your mark in the Big leagues. That's why spring is a great time to watch games. Usually, you will have 3 or 4 positions that are up for grab and 4 players per position fighting for that job.
Spring is also the time to create a bond with other players, especially the new guys the team acquired in trades.
New coaches will also learn about players. Last year with the Dodgers, I took 6 players for a round of golf while I was there as a coach during spring training. We had a great time and this is when bonds are made with other players. One of the players who played with us was from Japan and didn't speak a word of English, but somehow we all figured out how to communicate and get to know each other. Coming from a different country and different culture, it's really hard for those players to feel like they fit in, so spring training is really important to make them feel at home.
Every player will tell you that spring is way too long. But I believe it's good for that team building reason, but also for pitchers, because we need more time to get ready and make sure we don't get hurt by going too fast. Trust me, I know a lot of kids that want to go fast to get ready for a season. In all my years, I learned that the most important thing for a player is to know how long and what each of us need to do to get ready. Of course, each position is a different challenge, but for pitchers it's more physical to get your arm in a pitching shape. For position players, it's more mental. Reviewing pitch selections, seeing pitches and getting to their routine are the most important aspects to work on. It's a long process, but when season starts, you need to be ready because every year there is a team or two who will wish they had one or two more wins that could have gotten them into the playoffs. And usually, you will look at March and April and wish you were more ready.
Spring is great for all fans and players, that’s for sure.