We took many great family trips with our two kids when they were younger. Family trips form some of our fondest memories.
But, I also took trips with each of our kids individually and those were great opportunities to spend time with our son or our daughter focused on their interests.
I have taken several trips with our daughter exploring our common interest in “supernatural” events. We’ve gone on several “ghost tours” and explored places that are said to be haunted. Some of those trips have been less than spectacular but a few of them , notably a “ghost tour” on the island of Oahu and a tour of the prison where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed were fantastically “creepy” and quite memorable.
Our son and I took many “road trips” around Michigan as he shares his father’s love for seeking out “off the beaten path” places. But, we also share the joy of being serious baseball fans, so we have also traveled to several Major League and Minor League stadiums to watch games and to just enjoy each other’s company amid the relaxed pace of a good ballgame.
But, the best baseball trip we took, in my opinion, was to Fort Meyers, Florida to witness our beloved Boston Red Sox’ Spring Training.
If you’re a baseball fan, going to Spring Training is like being the proverbial “kid in the candy store”. The “exhibition” games are not the draw. The attraction is spending time in the team’s practice facility which, at least when we went in 2008, meant you could watch the players practice up close, listen in on interviews with the players and coaches, meet and chat with baseball folks and, especially for those of us from the North, enjoy the warm Florida sun as a preview to spring.
Our four days at Fort Meyers were unforgettable. We watched our heroes take batting practice. We caught so many foul balls that we started throwing them back to the coaches. We listened on in a conversation between David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez (that in and of itself was an experience worth the price of the plane ticket), chatted with Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky and shared stories with other Red Sox fans, young and old.
Spring training is a magical time. No, the games don’t matter. But the spirit of the game of baseball, the sounds and sights of infield drills and that warm, warm sun brings a smile to the face of every fan.
As I write this, the Super Bowl just ended. It was a great game ending a great playoff season.
But, for me, the most important aspect of the Super Bowl (unless, of course, the Patriots are playing) is that when it’s over, Spring Training is only a few days away. Turning the page from football to baseball season takes place just as the sun is rising high enough in the Michigan sky to actually begin to bring some moments of warmth that embody the promise of spring.
Except for this year, that is.
I don’t pay attention to the state of negotiations between the owners and the players. I don’t really care about what the issues are that separate them. I only care that Spring Training won’t be starting this week and the promise that this annual ritual brings just won’t be here to warm our hearts and keep us hoping for sunnier times.
It’s been a tough couple of years for all of us. It’s so unfortunate that we have to face this month without the beginnings of the game of summer.
Detroit Tigers’ announcer, the late Ernie Harwell, used to quote from the Song of Songs before the first Spring Training game:
“For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.“
The birds will still sing, the flowers will still appear, but for some of us, there will be something vital missing as we look ahead to spring. For so many of us, the winter will seem to drag on that much longer.
I don’t know what the issues are that have led to this impasse. I only know that I miss baseball already.