I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting, bored, in a cold, dark 7th grade classroom on a gloomy February day in suburban New York. It was 1980. In my 13-year-old mind, there was pretty much nothing in life to look forward to. Then, out of nowhere, my 7th grade history teacher, Mr. Sloan, burst into the classroom in a baseball uniform, brandishing a Louisville Slugger, and jumping around the room like an 8 year old. His get-up was one of those baggy, old-school type uniforms with no discernible team allegiance and the bat was way too small for his hands. He stood there, smiling, gloating, actually, waiting for some hint of a reaction from us. Then, just when it started to get awkward, he said, loudly,
“C’mon kids, don’t be so glum. Pitchers and catchers report today. Hope springs eternal!”
He then proceeded to talk about the baseball Spring Training rituals going on in that moment in Scottsdale and Vero Beach, in Tampa and Tucson and, in the end, he miraculously turned this seemingly meaningless February morning into a well-crafted geography, history, and life lesson all rolled into one. Of course, in the end, what we all remembered was the uniform and the exclamation, “Hope springs eternal!”
And, thus, here we are, on the cusp of a new running season. Hopeful, optimistic, and eager. Just like those rookies assembling in Arizona and Florida. The lotteries are over and the interwebs are all a twitter with race schedules and summer plans. But, first, lest we forget, there’s spring training:
We need to practice our bunts. We need to rehearse what to do when the ball is hit to the right side of the infield. We need to, once again, review how to run The Wheel. We also need to know how our Ace is recovering from off-season rotator-cuff surgery and how our slugging former right fielder will adjust to life at first base, or, God forbid, as Designated Hitter. We need to get accustomed to a new system with a new manager and we may even need to adapt to a new field with new lights, new grass, and possibly even, new dirt. What does this new season have in store for us? Where will the winding road take us this year?
Of course, only time will tell, but for now, does that really matter? The truth is, as of today, we’re all undefeated!
In our dear beloved sport, we’re only just beginning to pick up our weekly tempo runs to get ready for those seemingly short cramp-ridden jaunts at Way Too Cool, Chuckanut, and Terrapin that will quickly give way to slightly longer efforts at American River, Bull Run, Zane Grey, Sonoma and Leona. Come May we’ll be sharpening our fitness at Miwok and Nick Clark’s Quad Rock before dropping into the early months of summer at Masanutten, San Diego, Bighorn, and Western States. The balance of the summer will be filled with intrigue and excitement at Hardrock, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch with UTMB and Run Rabbit Run also entering the mix. Then we’ll roll into the autumn with a slew of other opportunities to see who can be the least tired after a glorious summer on the trail. I, for one, am always impressed with those runners who still get it done in 100-mile races when the leaves turn brown.
The point of all this, of course, is that there is a certain discernible rhythm to what we do. As we continue to seek meaning in our lives and find a place for ourselves in the order of things it is nice to know that the cycle of our running year, like the enduring cycle of the baseball season, is at once predicable and sanguine. While we never know what may be lurking around the next bend, we do know that as the days get longer and the sun gets higher we are pulled to the trail like the shortstop is pulled to the bag. The yearly ritual of our sport requires a certain focus, for sure, as well a a degree of serendipity that makes it, in the end, worthwhile no matter who we are. And while hope springs eternal for all of us in this time of great promise, we also know that the clock keeps ticking, the miles keep rolling, and the joy of being “out there” is fleeting. So, in the spirit of spring, lace ’em up and get after it!
Ps. You can now request a free AJW’s Taproom bumper sticker (4″ x 4″).
AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
This week’s beer comes from my old hometown of Phoenix, AZ. While much has changed around those parts in the decade or so since I last lived there Four Peaks Brewing has not. Their Hop Knot IPA is a good brew to take into spring and to sip while enjoying the Giants, A’s and Diamondbacks!
Call for Comments (from Bryon)
- What are your spring running rituals?
- Do you see your spring training as setting the tone for your year?
- More important, what’s your favorite baseball team AND what’s your favorite beer to drink while watching them? (Note: This might not be your overall beer. It’s not for me.)