The Sweetest Sounds
For anyone who works in baseball, or who simply loves the game, the offseason is marked and measured by holidays. Barring any highly unusual circumstances, you're usually home by Halloween (no small matter when you have kids). Thanksgiving seems to be upon you before you've even had a chance to decompress, and -- after the winter meetings and the accompanying flurry of activity -- Christmas comes in what feels like a matter of days, New Year's Eve in a matter of hours.
Then comes the dead period, also known as January, when time seems to crawl by. You dig out of the snow. You fight the flu. You digest the latest steroids revelations. (Some years, you inaugurate a president.) You feel as if you can barely remember what a bat hitting a ball, or a ball hitting a glove, sounds like. You watch some NFL playoffs, because it seems like the thing to do, and at least you can be assured none of those players are using steroids -- because no one from Congress, SportsCenter or the Commissioner's office is bloviating about it.
Finally, typically on the Monday after the Super Bowl, something (perhaps an overdose of guacamole) triggers that innate mechanism in the body by which your mind is filled with thoughts of baseball. Spring training is almost here.
By Valentine's Day, if you're not Florida or Arizona, something feels dreadfully wrong.
This will be my 12th year covering baseball, and I've grown accustomed to spending Valentine's Day alone in some place warm. Last year, I dined at this joint on the water in Cape Canaveral. I went early, so as not to appear too pathetic. I wore shorts. I had the grilled fish of the day. It was grouper. Back home, my wife had mac-and-cheese with our then-1 1/2-year-old. They toasted to the occasion, wine-glass-on-plastic-sippee-cup.
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I feel the innate pull of Florida. I should be on a plane, or in a rented convertible, listening to a newly created Spring Training '09 iPod playlist and thinking about Nick Johnson's wrist, or the battle for the Mets' fourth outfielder job. But this spring, my departure to the Sunshine State will be delayed by a few weeks, as the Sheinin household awaits a new arrival. Tomorrow night, I will happily take my wife out for dinner and hope she does not go into labor before the dessert course.
The Post, of course, will have it all covered. Barry Svrluga, who officially covers the Redskins for us but who we all know remains a Baseball Guy at heart, will be in Tampa early next week to chronicle Alex Rodriguez's highly anticipated arrival at Yankees camp. Come to think of it, I'm not too disappointed at missing that one.
And in Viera, Young Chico Harlan -- who, in fact, is already there -- will be detailing every move, every note of optimism and every pulled hammy of those suddenly much more interesting Washington Nationals. Boz will be getting there soon, too, and will try to explain to us how the Nationals, if everything breaks right for them, could win 90 games this year, and one of us will convince him not to write that.
For Chico, it's his first spring training, which means he gets to experience the joys of his first lunch at the famed Viera Panera, his first 8 a.m. media briefing with Manny Acta, his first four-hour traffic-jammed drive down I-95 to Fort Lauderdale.
As we speak, he may have already experienced the first glorious sounds of baseballs hitting gloves, and bats hitting balls, in an empty stadium, under sunny skies.
Those are the sweetest sounds of spring -- unless, of course, you are waiting on the arrival on a new, tiny human being, whose first cry as she enters the world is like Christmas, the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day all wrapped up in one.
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