Typically I’m not one to complain about winter, but this winter has been a veritable beast. I know Toronto isn’t Anchorage (It’s not even Quebec City.), but we do have winter–three to four months of it each year–and I’m simply comparing this one to the others I’ve lived through here in the Megacity. This has easily been the coldest winter I’ve experienced in Toronto. On my social media feeds, I saw people pleading for its end in early January. The attitude on Groundhog Day seemed more of desperation than exuberance. Given all of that, and the fact that we have at least another month left of this nastiness, I’ve got my eyes peeled for any and all signs of spring.
Now personally, I don’t usually get excited about baseball until close to the end of Spring Training, when Las Vegas starts suggesting–for reasons I can never quite fathom–that the new incarnation of the Toronto BJs could. go. all. the. way. This year is different, however. It’s only mid-February, and I’m already fired up for baseball. Spring Training started this weekend, and with its backdrops of Florida (Grapefruit League) and Arizona (Cactus League), it’s providing the comforting promise of warmer weather I so badly needed.
There are a lot of other comforting things about baseball, mind you; I mean, aside from the fact that it’s a fair weather sport. For starters, the players all dress in clownish gear (check the beards, knickers, and oversized gloves) and pretty much run around in circles. Seriously, what’s not to like about that? And who doesn’t dig hot dogs, cotton candy, and beer? I’m not a consumer of all three, but I do get a kick out of it when a super-sized, middle-age fan is clutching two servings of each, while simultaneously trying to negotiate the high-traffic stadium steps and relocate his seat.
You can multi-task while enjoying a baseball game too. When I was a kid, our neighbor would often listen to the Tigers game on his radio while washing and waxing his car. The last time I was at a Jays game, a young woman next to us had purchased two seats and was sprawled out across them, “doing” her sudoku and soaking up the sun. Hell, since the advent of smart phones, and with the sport’s pedestrian pace, baseball may now be the one game a kid can actually play and watch at the same time. Of course, I’ve heard hockey fans argue that the pace of baseball is too slow, but I’m an advocate of both of these sports. I don’t turn my nose up at Filet Mignon, just because I also happen to enjoy tailgate-barbecue steak. Each has tremendous upside.
If you are amused by some of the more ridiculous names for U.S. college sports teams, farm league baseball has that covered as well with monikers like the Modesto Nuts, the Batavia Muckdogs, and the Inland Empire 66ers.
Toronto’s intercounty baseball team is also interestingly named. They’re called the Maple Leafs. The Leafs play their home games at Christie Pits Park, not far from Toronto’s Annex neighborhood. Camping on the slopes of Christie Pits on a sunny, summer afternoon and taking in a Leafs game is a genuine, downtown-Toronto experience. You can buy your authentic baseball Maple Leafs cap at the office right below the park’s scoreboard.
I’m delighted to report that baseball is back. Spring Training is a welcome reminder of the fairer weather that’s on the horizon. Sure, summer is still a ways off, but I can dream, and Spring Training helps me do just that. Like KBHR disc jockey Chris Stevens once said, spinning the poet Robert Frost’s words, “The best way out of winter is through it,” so I’m gonna brave the rest of this one comforted by visions of grapefruit and cacti, and with Wayfarers on, Baby …
(photos credited to choicehotels.com, www.v-fit.us, and Phillies.com)