The off-season draws to a close, as pitchers, catchers, coaches and equipment trucks trickle into Clearwater. Here are some final thoughts as Beerleaguer transitions into Spring Training.
It’s become an annual Beerleaguer tradition to return the Phillies to the general public right around Feb. 15. I’ll miss the uncharted territory of winter, me and my metal detector, combing the beach long after the summer rentals board their windows. Now, the attraction moves to Florida, and the gray shore couldn't feel colder.
It's the same jolt every season: The sun-bleached photos; the reports; that first glimpse of red; the authenticity of it. For months, we’ve disassembled the pieces and built them back up, playing architect to a season unfolding only in the margins. Games have been won and lost, success has been measured, failure debated. It no longer matters.
I look toward the season with guarded optimism - because there’s no other way to look at it. Specifically, it feels like 2004 all over again. One-by-one, passive fans begin to growl about the likelihood of a playoff birth, citing better starting pitching perhaps, new faces, like the ones they saw in ‘04. The bats will take care of themselves
The rest of us hesitate to plunge into the pool so soon after lunch. Beerleaguer is like adult swim. We’re waterlogged and pruned, but content to sip hot toddies and moan about the bullpen and bench. Then the whistle blows and it’s a free-for-all of children and inflatable SpongeBob. Like a great man should have once said: Kids ruin baseball.