The Hopes And Prayers Of A Spring Training

A blonde woman wearing a suit held a sign at the Phoenix Airport this week that didn’t have a name or initials or even a picture of someone. Instead it was an “x” made from baseball bats with a “G” above, a “C” below and 1883 split on the left and right.

“We’ve got a straggler,” the woman said. “The rest of them already came and went.”

The rest were the members of the Gotham Club, an upper-crust bunch that pays extra for extra access to the San Francisco Giants.

After some time, a young woman in a pink sweater walked down the ramp and smiled when she saw the sign.

“This is my first time at spring traing,” Jenny Olivero said, “My parents go every year. “

Hers is the next generation of baseball. Youth raised with the game, appreciating the intricacies of the game, and the wonders that a game of nine-against-one can provide.

Just outside the Peoria Sports Compkex, two members of baseball’s current generation walked quickly towards the stadium that is home to the San Diego Padres and the Seattle Mariners during the preseason. But these two are Dodgers fans.

“Our wives made us come,” said Glenn Martin of Arroyo Grande.

“It was a Christmas present,” said John Prock, “Our wives are sisters.”

Regardless of the status of the family tree, both say they’re here because of their wives’ brilliant plan and because of Vin Scully.

I mean, how many Dodgers fans didn’t stay in past their bedtimes listening?

Inside the facility, on the second level, a white-haired gentleman from baseball’s and America’s greatest generation takes my $5 and directs me to a table of burgers and dogs for media types.

Lee Wellman is in his fourth year as a volunteer here, after 20 years in the ticket office every spring.

“Handing out tickets at will call to wives and girlfriends of players,” he said.

Did the two ever show up at the same time?

“Yeah,” he smiled, almost blushing, “I don’t remember what the circumstances were.”

When I shot him a disbelieving look, he just said, “Usually things were on the up and up.”

Wellman said he’s not sure if he’ll volunteer again next year, “Getting a little hard to get around. I’ll see how it is next year and maybe I’ll be back.”

He’s 88.

These are the people who help make being a fan….fun.

No bitching about competitive imbalance, pitch clocks, or side-talking Major League Baseball upper management types.

As Jenny Oliver got into the car to go join her family, she summed up the experience quite nicely, “I’m excited to get into the spirit of baseball.”

The spirit of baseball.

Amen to that.

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