Today is Babe Ruth’s 119th birthday, and this month in his honor, thousands will make the pilgrimage to his grave site in Westchester county, just north of the NYC metro area. I honestly had no idea this was a thing, but apparently, fans do this every year prior to the start of each season. They even have a tour bus that arranges a stop to the grave site so fans can pay homage to what a lot of people consider to be the “Greatest Ball Player Who Ever Lived”. It’s a big tourist attraction and tradition for many baseball fans. About 10 years ago when the Red Sox were looking to “break the curse” so closely associated with Ruth, even Red Sox fans made the pilgrimage to “ask him” to release their team from the curse.
Yes, this is one of those weird things about baseball that non-baseball fans seem to like to focus on to point of why “everyone hates baseball now”. I am going to say here and now that this baseball fan thinks this is beyond weird and abnormal. I am a huge fan of traditions and nostalgia, but this might be taking things a bit too far. Right up there for me with some of the weirder superstitions like players wearing the same socks without washing them for every game or not shaving the entire season in hopes that alone will gift them the Championship.
It pays to have friends in high places, as they say. The NY state department was able to put a rush on Masahiro Tanaka‘s work visa so Tanaka would be able to make it to Spring Training. Tanaka is expected to leave Japan by Sunday, which puts him in Florida in plenty of time for his reporting date next Friday (February 14). And like many of his new teammates, he will escaping the winter (albeit a much more mild one than some of this country’s winter this year) into Florida temperatures.
Tanaka will be joining fellow pitchers and catchers as they begin their own workouts at the Tampa minor league complex. One of the smartest things they do for Spring Training is to call for pitchers and catchers to report early because they require more fluidity and teamwork than all the other players. For at least half the game, the entire flow of the half-inning is dictated by the communication and work of the pitcher and catcher. And with McCann being the new starting catcher and back-up Cervelli coming off the DL and a suspension, they have a mix of old and new pitchers to learn how to work together and build a functional professional relationship. Plus, there’s that magic of developing the bullpen and giving those minor leaguers and non-roster invitees a chance to show off their stuff and give Girardi, Cashman, & Co. someone to remember for the “what if” days.
And so we are at 8 days to pitchers and catchers, 13 to full squad, 14 to first full workout, 19 to first Spring game, and 53 days to Opening Day (and 59 to Opening Day in the Bronx). And if you remember the thing they were doing last year with the countdown, that’s Yogi Berra, Alex Rodriguez, formerly Curtis Granderson (I really doubt anyone will wear this number this year), Austin Romine, and 3rd base coach Rob Thomson, respectively. Of course, I can’t help but think of Yankees every time I get a number, be it at a restaurant or the random lottery ticket. I guess that’s a side effect of being a fan not just of today’s Yankees, but of their history and legacy.