ANOTHER SEASON BEGINS ANEW
As we waited for our Southwest Airlines flight to board at Oakland Airport this morning, A’s Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, AP sportswriter Janie McCauley and I exchanged pleasantries. All three of us were headed to Phoenix to start the marathon known as Major League Baseball.
While the names might change on your flight each year, the scene is quite familiar. Spring Training is about to begin, and this trip truly signals the end of winter. As I write this first blog of 2012, it makes me think of the ritual of leaving home for the warm environs of Arizona. While working for another MLB team years ago, I remember listening to Bob Quinn, remarkably a third generation GM in baseball. His father and grandfather before him had taken that same cross-country car ride each February. Bob so fondly recounted the same, cherished steps taken every year. The car would be packed up from Milwaukee or Philadelphia, where snow and frigid temperatures were bid adieu, as he or his father would drive south, state by state, until the sun began to shine and a welcomed 70 degrees would greet them as they reached their Spring Training destination.
While the Bay Area hardly compares to the harsh winters of those locales, I’m sure our very own Billy Beane, along with his trusty canine companion Taggert, enjoy the same pleasure of their annual car trip to Arizona as he anticipates a new, still unwritten season with the A’s. I know I felt the same way when we touched down at Phoenix International Airport, the sun-splashed Camelback Mountains, plush green golf courses, and endless red rocks always a welcome sight.
My routine will continue this afternoon. Day One at Spring Training is always the same. I pick up my rental car, stop by the Phoenix Municipal Stadium offices to set up my office—hey, there’s Honey Bear’s BBQ as I drive up Van Buren—head to the grocery store for food and toiletries, and finally check in to the team hotel, the Doubletree Suites near the airport. Tomorrow, pitchers and catchers report. The irrepressible Dallas Braden will hold court in the clubhouse, no doubt, as he welcomes the staff’s newbies like Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone, and also renews his friendships with returning veterans such as Brandon McCarthy, Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour. Beyond Braden’s state-of-the-209 address, I suspect Janie McCauley and our beat reporters Susan Slusser, Joe Stiglich, Jane Lee and Kate Longworth will zero in on former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon tomorrow, as the 39-year-old right-hander will check into A’s Central for the first time after making somewhat of a comeback with the Yankees last season. Colon, most likely slated to start Oakland’s second game against the Mariners in Tokyo March 29, could give Bob Melvin’s staff a much-needed veteran presence as we begin preparing for the 2012 campaign with several rotation spots still to be determined.
In speaking with Susan Slusser yesterday—someone who’s logged several years on the beat and has earned a gilded reputation in the business—we both agreed that this should be one of the more interesting Spring Trainings in recent memory. The 25-man roster that breaks camp is far from settled, as multiple positions promise to be wide-open competitions. It will be a talent-laden group vying for those spots, although many of the more-gifted players bring limited experience to Papago Park. How it all turns out will be the fun part, as we watch, day-by-day, for the unexpected twists and turns of Spring Training. Whether it’s following our blogs on the club’s website, or the regular reports on Comcast SportsNet or 95.7 FM The Game—both of the team’s broadcast partners will be on location every day next week—or reading insightful articles by our beat writers, we hope you jump right into the “Soap Opera” with the rest of us. Baseball is back, and it’s about time!