When there is a material disagreement between players and management involving money in any professional sport these days, most of us are resigned to ask why?
With all the income that everybody is making and accumulating, why can’t there be common ground to keep the competition active and the games on schedule?
Why was there not a sense of urgency back in December and January to reach a settlement and let the fans enjoy spring training? Why does that sense of urgency not come about until it is too late?
COVID disrupted things in 2020 and then lingered on, but baseball enjoyed a glorious season in 2021 with the serendipity Braves winning the World Series and binging vindication for the fans who felt they had been given the shaft regarding the loss of the All-Star Game last summer.
Think of the many people who count on the playing of spring training games as part of their livelihoods. It is income that they won’t ever get back. Many of the ballpark workers are retirees but need the extra income with spring training jobs. If not hardship, the inconvenience brings about stress. Motels and restaurants really suffer when no spring training tourist aficionados show up in Florida and Arizona in February and March.
While spring baseball games don’t count, they bring about a lift to fans who flock to the cozy stadiums where most games are played in warm sunshine although March winds can be an irritation on some afternoons.
There are so many ancillary options for fans who journey down to Florida for a couple of weeks. You can play a number of challenging golf courses, arranging a tee time that allows you to get in a round of golf before the first pitch.
If you prefer to cast for bass on a popular lake, you can do that and still make it to the ballpark on time. If you’ve got work to do, you can get up with the sun (or before it peeks over the horizon) and get in a day’s work before gametime.
Whatever you do, when you head off to see your favorite team in action, be sure and stow your cell phone out of reach. Most people can’t leave home without their cellphones, but if you want to enjoy your spring training experience to the fullest avoid cell phone chatter.
Most of the ball parks today have been upgraded by local communities which should not be denied the spring training experience. Take Lee County Florida as an example. The city of Ft. Myers and the county have built two classy stadiums for the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. They are now empty and forlorn.
It is the laidback lifestyle that resonates with the spring training cognoscenti. Since the games don’t count, there is no pressure to win which means that the players are more relaxed with the fans. In the old days at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, families would host players for dinner during spring training. Money or the love of it spoiled all that.
Many Dodger players, including the immortal Sandy Koufax, took up residency in Vero Beach. Koufax still has a winter home in Vero Beach and you might find him having dinner at Bobby’s, a popular bar and restaurant, where the best man in his wedding, Richie Auger, tends bar.
Ron Perranoski, Dodger pitcher, coach and baseball lifer, spent his off season in Vero throughout his career. When he retired, you could find him at Bobby’s most afternoons where he enjoyed the local clientele and delighted the doting tourists who flocked to Vero before he passed on. Vero is a popular destination today even with the Dodgers having lit out for Arizona 14 years ago. It has to do with memories.
Spring training sites have a college football town atmosphere. For the most part, spring baseball has traditionally taken place in small towns or communities. Just like it is in college football. Fans exhibit a doting patronage of the teams and games, embracing the young players who are becoming established. Just like college fans, boning up on the new signees.
Local governments are bent on funding plush facilities while the tourist-based constituencies bring in impressive revenues to help make spring baseball for big league clubs a profit center.
The labor disagreement has kicked the communities and the fan base in the teeth. Eventually the strike will end, and baseball will be played again.
For those who love spring training, however, especially the families and the little guy fans, there is that enduring question. How much longer will they take getting kicked in the teeth?