SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 05: Rossmel Perez #68 of the Arizona Diamondbacks sits in the dugout with a cup stuck to his hat from his teammates during the spring training game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 5, 2012 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Spring Training in Arizona is a happy accident, and a gift that I should savor. Any self-respecting baseball fan should be ecstatic to be surrounded by so much baseball, right? The thing is, it doesn't feel much like real baseball to me. It's a routine to get ready for the season, and a money making venture by Organized Baseball. Why do I care what happens?
I don't much like Spring Training as a particular, but I do like it in general.
The idea of watching grown men work out isn't a high concern for me, nor are the games very interesting. I feel like I'm being ripped off when I attend a game, between paying for parking, a ticket nearly the same price as Chase Field, and concessions. It's a high cost for a game that doesn't matter, featuring players that will likely have no future impact.
Most of the activities surrounding Spring Training aren't of interest to me, either. Is it neat to get an autograph on occasion? Sure, and I'm sure it will have more meaning when my son is old enough to ask for autographs. When you follow a team closely, however, and you start to see the players more and more, it loses a certain value. My proximity to the real product devalues Spring Training, and it's hard to recapture the magic.
It's also largely a waste for municipal governments to build specialized facilities, especially when the teams can demand new stadiums after a decade, or threaten to move. The minimal economic gains from Spring Training are not enough reason to continually cow to team demands, but it's impossible for the municipalities of the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues to bow out as long as the other league is still in the game.
I do like Spring Training as an idea, however. I like that it brings in some tourists who might not ever consider visiting Arizona. I like that it is a particularly Arizona activity. I like that it feels like everyone in town is paying attention to baseball, instead of feeling obsessed but singular during the regular season.
But really what I like is that it means real baseball is almost here.