Tuesday, February 25, 2014

By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

When it comes to our senses, there are those that we indulge and those that we don’t. Think about it: we will indulge our sense of taste by eating things even when we are full or chewing gum for hours just because it tastes good. We indulge our sense of touch by snuggling up with someone on the sofa while watching TV which doesn't make the show any better (but it does make it more fun to watch!). But, it’s not like we will stare at the exact same image for hours or listening to the same sound for prolonged periods.* Seeing things and hearing things mostly just provide information to our brains, which we then use for a multitude of purposes. We use those senses to indulge our brains, not the receptors themselves. 

There is, however, one sound, that for me is totally indulgent. It’s the sweetest sound on Earth, and one that I can listen to endlessly. And that’s the sound of the first Spring Training game. The sound of that first bat hitting a ball, the sound of baseball chatter in the background, the sense of hope for the upcoming season—it’s all such a sweet combination—it’s like umami for the ears. 

Going back to high school, the first day of Spring Training was a holiday for me. I will admit that I ditched school on those days. I had a whole ritual about it. I would leave after 4th period, go to Togos, order a large #26 (turkey, ham and cheese), a large coke, and a bag of Doritos. I’d take a portable radio with me, find a nice park with a good shade tree, and just listened to the game. It was heaven on Earth. 

In college, like many, I experimented with my holiday. I went from the #26 to the #28 (adding capicola to the sandwich), and went from Doritos to Cheetos. But, the basics of the tradition remained the same. I can still picture every placed I staked out to enjoy the game, and remember each class I missed in order to make it happen.

Back then, the only way to get the game was on the radio. Tuning into the game wasn’t always easy. We didn’t have games on TV or broadcast over the internet. We had to find the right spot to catch the game. The radio’s antenna aimed perfectly. As the day wore on or the weather changed, you’d have to retune the antenna, making it a particular challenge in some locations.

But it was so worth it. After the long winter without baseball, the first game of spring brought back all the joy of summer. There were new players to know. New potential for the team. We didn’t always have major free agent signings or trades to discuss. But there was hope. 

This year, the Angels will have 26 Spring Training games broadcast, including their first game of the year on Friday. Twenty years ago, I would have been thrilled with just a few Spring Training games. Now, we get almost all of them! My, how times have changed!

I am getting older now, and I do have responsibilities. Ditching class in high school is a lot harder when you are the one teaching it. But, make no mistake, I will be tuning into the game on Friday. My lunch begins right before the game, so I am all set to tune in. If my afternoon classes behave, I just might leave the game on in the background while we are doing some work in class. I am also taping the game at home so that later in the day, I can watch it with my sons and pass on the tradition of listening (now watching) the Angels' first Spring Training game. They’ve been asking me every night for a week when real baseball will begin (as opposed to their Little League games), and when we get home on Friday, they’re going to be in for a good surprise. 

There’s a movement afoot, led by Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith to make baseball’s Opening Day a national holiday. I’m in favor of that. You can sign the online petition here. There are things that are more important than working. Taking a day off to enjoy a ballgame, gathering together with friends and family for a barbeque, hearing the sweet sound of baseball chatter, are all reasons to take a day off and celebrate. It’s a uniquely American thing to do, and there’s no better way to honor the national pastime with a national holiday.

These are my traditions for the start of Angels baseball. Now it’s your turn. How do you celebrate the return of baseball? What traditions do you have for the start of Spring Training?

*Okay, yes, some teenage boys will “stare” for hours at the same thing or person (maybe to the point of drooling), but that’s because they are indulging their fantasies, and not their sense of sight.

Love to hear what you think!

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