Pitchers and Catchers Report This Week!

AJWs TaproomI 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!

Bottoms up!

Ps. You can now request a free AJW’s Taproom bumper sticker (4″ x 4″).

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Four Peaks Hop Knot IPAThis 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.)

There are 25 comments

  1. Bartman

    Thanks Andy! Great write up. Thankfully I had a similar teacher in high school. Mr. Whitney taught American History and would show up in class occassionally dressed in full civil war attire either as a Confederate or Union general or the blue and gray of a foot soldier. He certainly had our attention. Thank God for teachers like him and your Mr. Sloan.

  2. A. Bunt

    My spring ritual seems to be getting a cold that lasts for 10-21 days and then running too many miles when I come back from the dead and getting a minor injury. I got the cold this year, but I'm hoping to avoid the injury.

  3. pittbrownie

    Go Pirates! This is our year! Iron City during the game, Yuengling post-game celebrating the big win. Unfortunately, you can't get either of those beers in Colorado. Which is OK since the Pirates don't win very much.

    1. John Macklen Sr.

      [Editor's Note: I accidentally edited John's note instead of replying and I can't get his original comment back. Sorry about that, John… please chime back in! Sincerely, Bryon]

    2. Bryon Powell

      Initially, I had a sweet black and white pic of Ted Williams, but then realized I should stick to an image with a pitcher and catcher. Admittedly, my choice in the actually photo was not coincidental. :-D

  4. Ethan

    Nice piece, Andy! Unfortunately my spring ritual this year consists of trying to fix an Achilles injury in time to get into shape for Ice Age and then States. An earlier 50k would be an unexpected bonus. Fingers crossed!

  5. Rob Y

    My spring ritual is yet another soul crushing trip up into the Tennessee woods where I expect my spirit to be crushed. But out of this humiliation I typically grow even more hardened and resolved; strengthened. All qualities I'll need when my wife head overseas to Hungary to compete in the Ultrabalaton 212km….

  6. James @reddirtrunner

    After the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in October I shifted gears immediately to training for Rocky Raccoon so I'm in pretty good shape at the moment. I'm looking at taking a break over the heat of the summertime in June and July.

    And Go Rangers!

  7. Randy

    Shows how times have changed,in JR High(that was 7th to 9th grade),my teacher had a man run into the classroom,yell something,fire a blank pistol several times,and run out.She wanted to see how our observations skills were,what the man said,how many shots,what he wore,just to see the different versions of the same incident was recounted among us.It was surprising,but we didn't cower,run,no cops were called.Be mayhem now,teacher would be arrested,man with pistol would be in big trouble,school lock-down,oh how times have changed!

  8. BFish

    Great stuff AJW!

    Having grown up playing and now coaching my son's baseball team this really hits a home run. And since we're talking pitchers & catchers, RIP Gary Carter!

    Go Rockies

  9. Tony Mollica

    Nice article Andy! I really enjoyed it.

    I am a life long Cleveland Indians fan. However since I've upped my miles and cross training I haven't had much time to make the trip to see them play or watch them on TV. Go Tribe!

  10. Tarzan

    Big Twins fan here….and for reasons I can't explain, a Boston Red Sox fan…both teams have had hard luck at times and left me (as a grown man) with tears in my eyes and that lump of mashed potatoes in my throat feeling……but every yr, like a doomed relationship I can't let go of, I trudge back to the trenches and remain faithful until the bitter, doomed end……great article! I've been getting out and making it happen, training for my first 50 miler, (Ice Age!) and nervously fidgeting my Homer Hanky……my family has asked me time and time again, whether it's my baseball affair or my running that causes me pain, "Why do you keep doing this to yourself?" My answer, "How can you not!?!"

  11. Andy

    Spring training ritual starts here in central CT with the Traprock 50k in April (3 miles from home and hence home field advantage). The last 2 yrs I've followed that up with the the 1st TNF season race at Bear Mtn, NY.

    Which leads, of course, to the obvious pick of the Yankees as the favorite team (if they play well any potable brew will do). Now let's see how long it takes to hear from from Ben Nephew and the rest of the folks in ultra Red Sox nation …

  12. David

    I'll never forget the Roar of 84!

    Recently, my Spring time tradition centers around an annual pilgrimage to Boston (Patriot's Day). For preparation, I like to do 35-40K point-to-point long runs. Thankfully I have a spouse willing to pick me up in no-mans land.

  13. Jim Skaggs

    Moab Red Hot tomorrow for the first race of the season. Looking forward to it. We've been lucky to be able to run on dirt for most of the winter here in Utah, so the fitness level is pretty good right now. Good time on the trail followed by a good time with beer involved at Eddie McStiff's after.

  14. Gretchen

    That's funny, I just posted my own racing schedule and it includes many of the races you mentioned. I guess you were pretty on target with this one, Andy. "…pulled to the trails like the shortstop is pulled to the bag." Indeed.

  15. Mike

    Spring training for me is in its second or third month of trying to get injury-free, with an ultra here and there to remind me how much fun it is before putting me out for another couple weeks.

    Stickers? I love stickers!

  16. Jeremy

    I'm skipping the "Cactus League" races this year and resting my "aces" for two big hundreds. Wanting to be strong in the "extra innings." Trying to rehab an ankle injury "curveball"…insert additional baseball pun here. Baseball is fun to play- like running ultras- but painfully boring to watch- like running ultras.

  17. swampy

    Not even remotely close to being a baseball fan. However, this is a well written running piece. I hope they decide to keep you around.

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