83 pinstriped-legged men took the field in the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa this morning. Batting practice, fielding exercises, stretching, more throwing off the mound, greeting old faces, meeting new ones, and the hordes of media and rabid fans trying to get the attention of the big names on the team. Ladies and gentlemen, Spring Training has officially begun.
Before heading off to Steinbrenner Field this morning, Curtis Granderson summed it up:
Today’s the first full team practice of 2013. Excited to be back with the whole squad and my new teammates.
— Curtis Granderson (@cgrand14) February 18, 2013
He seems to reiterate what I cannot seem to emphasize it enough lately — that the Yankees are a team first and once a Yankee, always a Yankee. As my Twitter feed filled up with pictures and updates from the field (Hafner’s BP home run, Jeter being harassed by fans, Cano’s stretching, Girardi’s crossed arms and eagle eye, etc.), it just reminded me of so many other BP before games I’ve seen. They’re finding their grooves, hanging with the guys, and playing the game they’ve loved longer than some of the newer guys on the field have been alive.
Actually, pre-game BP is one of my favorite parts of going to a game. You can watch the team just play and be guys, all without the pressure of winning or out-strategizing their opponents. It’s like what I remember from watching my brother play little league over 15 years ago, and I suppose where you can really see if they’re a true team or not. I’ve watched pre-game BP from other teams, and sometimes they have that cohesion of teamwork and camaraderie But more often, they’re just trying to hit monster home runs in BP and throw long shots during fielding practice to show how cool and important they are. But they have forgotten what Tom Selleck’s character so accurately stated in Mr. Baseball, “Baseball is grown men getting paid to play a game. When you were a kid, I bet you didn’t pick up a bat and ball because you were dying to work. A player’s career is short enough. Let them enjoy it.”
And that’s what BP and these work-out days are all about — working on their craft and having fun in the process. There’s a ton of pictures coming out of Tampa with smiles and laughs from the players, and that to me is encouraging. They are ready to enjoy this year, so bring it on.