Gearing up for Spring

I guess it’s time for me to switch to gearing up for Spring Training. Pitchers and Catchers report tomorrow, though like many of the “Sidewalk Crew” are reporting, various position players have already begun their workouts at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

The Yankees have invited 84 guys (including their 40-man roster) to Spring Training this year. This fact makes me think of a few times in my life when I’ve been on both sides of that coin (of course, never as a Spring Training invitee, but nonetheless) — the newbie and the veteran. I think it’s more fun for the veterans because they know what to expect, they’ve been through the process, and they can encourage/mentor some of the young guys without the pressure of trying to make the team (with the minor exception of the starting catcher’s match we seem to have developing).

But I would think being the newbie has its perks as well, especially if they’ve yet to make their major league debut. You can take advantage of the veteran’s knowledge of the game and team and their fluidity on the field, make connections with some of the guys you perhaps idolized growing up, and get the chance to really cement your identity both as a player and as a potential teammate. The guys who are coming into Spring Training as established contract players, but new to the team, get a chance to prove themselves worthy of the pinstripes and to reinvent themselves, in a sense.

As fans, we get the chance to watch the hopefuls and perhaps see the next great generation of Yankees take the field for a game or two with our current great Yankees. Growing up in Florida, we saw a ton of minor league games. But now, I wish I’d saved the programs from those days to see if we saw any of today’s stars or even Cooperstown inductees. Players get traded all the time; so being drafted by and playing with the Dunedin Blue Jays in the minor leagues, a player could then end up with the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, or just maybe the New York Yankees before his career is over. I guess I’ll never know for sure…

And I suppose that’s what I like most about Spring Training — keeping an eye out for the ones that (like I said yesterday) marry the statistical talent with the natural instinct. I have my eye on a crop of younger players currently on Major League rosters that I think can possibly be Cooperstown material (staying clean and healthy is always critical), and for the next 15 years or so, I look forward to watching them develop into the baseball player I know they can be and just maybe a future Yankee great or two.

Go Yankees!

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