For all thirty teams in the Majors, this week marks the real beginning of 2011. Each team will report to its respective base camp in either Arizona or Florida, the players will dust off their equipment, ready themselves to run, stretch, throw, hit, and finally play a game, even if it’s not meaningful in the least.
Every year, Spring Training partially wipes away the anticipatory feeling that’s been residing in our heads, hearts, and guts since the end of the World Series. It does exist, in a way, as a road bump to the regular season; but it is by far the smallest bump and is easiest to clear. This season offers the usual relief, highlighted by a collective “Finally!” when we see that first team workout, but also something more.
As we’re all aware, the Yankees have a hell of a lot of players in on minor league deals this year: Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, Ronnie Belliard, and Eric Chavez the chief among them. They also have, as usual, a sizable list of non-roster invitees. We know what the Major League players can do; that’s why they’re Major League players. And while we get excited to see them play once again, it’s fun to see the lesser known players work for a shot. The relatively high amount of veteran players coming into camp this year definitely has me more excited for Spring Training than usual.
On the pitching side, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have, at the least, outside shots (probably better than that in Garcia’s case) at making the big league team out of Spring Training. While Spring Training “competitions” are usually just competitions in name only, sometimes it’s fun to suspend disbelief and think the best pitcher will “win.”
Literally every fan of every team gets a certain joy from watching the organization’s minor leaguers take part in Spring Training. This year, I’ll be keeping my eye on Adam Warren. I’ve liked him a lot since he’s joined the organization and I think he’s got some good potential. The polish is most definitely there and seeing him against the most advanced of competition will be fun to watch. Of course, all our eyes will be on Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, the top two prospects in the organization. It’s almost inevitable that Montero will be in the Bronx this year and Banuelos’ 2010 has us all dreaming of a repeat in 2011.
Lastly, I have selfish reasons for wanting Mark Prior to succeed. After all, I lobbied for the idea (briefly) before it happened. We may know there’s nothing left in his tank (or next to nothing in Eric Chavez‘s) but Spring Training offers that tiniest of glimpses of hope. Perhaps that’s why we love Spring Training so much. Yes it’s prosaically mundane to say that ST means hope for all teams, that everyone’s in it. But the sentimental part of my baseball brain and my baseball heart loves that. Everything is new, everything is fresh. Everyone is on equal footing, and everyone’s got a shot, even if just for one day.
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