I am SO ready for baseball this year, and have been eagerly anticipating this day for months, since I’m certainly looking forward to some bread and circuses. Of course, it’s an almost meaningless mark. When they say “report”, this doesn’t even mean everyone has to show up at Salt River Fields - a phone-call to say, “Hey, I’m in town,” is perfectly fine for team purposes. There will probably be a couple of warm bodies around the complex this morning, but they won’t actually be doing very much - the first workouts for pitchers and catchers don’t take place until tomorrow. New manager Torey Lovullo will be showing up around noon, to talk to the press. That’s about it.
But it’s still the first shoots of a fresh new season. In just nine days time, we’ll have the first action, when the D-backs take on Grand Canyon University. Cactus League play then begins the Saturday after that, when we face (inevitably!) the Rockies - oddly, this year, the schedule is such that we play them in our first two games, then won’t see them again the rest of the pre-season, beyond nodding at each other as we pass in the STF parking lot. And the games will gradually grow from five-inning jogs, after which the line-up becomes a veritable “Who’s he?” of players, into increasingly full-paced contests as we head through March and towards Opening Day.
I think there may be a more wary tone among fans this spring, after all the hopes of last spring - best record in the Cactus League - turned out to be thoroughly unfounded. If we play well and win games, that’s nice, but having experience how irrelevant those wins are, I am more concerned about everyone staying healthy in these exhibitions. For over the years, we’ve had our share of unfortunate injuries in “meaningless” games, whether it’s Opening Day starting pitcher Patrick Corbin blowing out his arm shortly before the trip to Australia, or A.J. Pollock breaking his elbow in the penultimate warm-up game. Fingers crossed nothing like that happens to anyone on the Arizona roster this year.
It will be a learning experience for just about everyone, with a new manager, mostly new coaching staff and a host of largely unfamiliar battery-mates, working together for the first time. The six catchers in camp have a grand total of 39 starts at catcher for Arizona (the great majority of which, 29, belong to Chris Herrmann), so there will be a lot of familiarization to be done, in terms of working with our pitchers. We be learning along with them, following the plot twists and turns of spring, cheering on the breakout performances, yet also breathing into a paper bag for the underwhelming ones and muttering “Spring training stats are meaningless.”
But hope will be the keyword this spring; not hope of contention like last year, just the hope for something better. There’s a new front office, and a sense the franchise is trying to turn the page on previous, pretty underwhelming efforts. Here’s to it being successful: but regardless, baseball is back as of today, and that’s one of the few unarguably good things in the world.