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Gans: Stay calm about baseball’s arrival (Feb. 12)

Sam Gans | Monday, February 11, 2013

Two items blew up my Facebook newsfeed Monday. One involved something that hasn’t happened in centuries. The other was because of something that occurs yearly, and always elicits the same giddy reaction from many people.

Pitchers and catchers have started to report to spring training.

Yes, MLB’s preseason unofficially began Monday, and by next Monday, each team will have its full roster – position players and all – in either Florida or Arizona to prepare for Grapefruit and Cactus League baseball, respectively.

For some reason, baseball’s camp opening seems to be bigger than the other sports, certainly the NBA and NHL, at least. This is not extremely surprising, because MLB is more popular than both of those leagues, based on television ratings and attendance.

But it also even gets more buzz than this country’s most popular league: the NFL. Perhaps this is because NFL coverage is basically year-round, with the combine, draft and mini-camps filling the offseason void. Therefore, the start of training camp for football fans isn’t as big of a deal. Still, it would make sense the NFL training camp would have more coverage than MLB based on its popularity. But baseball’s gets much more media attention and hype.

In particular, it seems difficult to focus on preparing for a sport to begin like baseball – famous for being played during warm summer nights on lush green fields – when the weather outside is freezing. Literally.

And yet, maybe that’s why pitchers and catchers reporting gets people as excited as it does. When you walk outside in February and see the ground covered in snow or feel the cold winter wind whipping across your face, spring can seem like it will never come, no matter what Groundhog Day indicates will happen. The beginning of spring training shows that, yes, at some point, the dog days of summer will indeed arrive (though perhaps by that point, the unbearable heat will have you longing for the cold again).

Probably the biggest oddity about the whole media buzz that pitchers and catchers reporting gets is that we’re still very far away from the season even starting.  It is mid-February, and the vast majority of teams don’t open their regular seasons until April. Yet the coverage makes it feel like they play next week.

This year, the large gap between when pitchers and catchers report and Opening Day will be filled nicely by the World Baseball Classic in March to help make the time move quicker, but this is atypical. And the reaction from fans when spring training rolls around is almost always the same, whether the World Baseball Classic is played that year or not.

I’m a baseball fan. Not as big as some on this campus, but I enjoy the sport. I will watch many contests on television from April through October, just like most sports fans, and attend some games in person this summer. But my excitement is still tempered. There’s a long way to go until the umpire can yell “play ball” in a game that actually counts.

In no way, baseball fans, am I saying to not be excited that spring training is about to begin, but we’re still more a month-and-a-half away from regular-season action. Be pumped your team is finally gathering to prepare to attempt a run at the pennant, but keep things in perspective, and realize the baseball season’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Forty-one days isn’t a few centuries, but it’s still a long time.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.