Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I see you talk, but can you hit?

The music returns to spring training Wednesday when the position players report to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates camps.

To me, this is the true start of the spring training.

Pitchers and catchers are nice, but I can only take seeing guys throw in the bullpen and pitchers practicing fielding bunts and covering first base for so long. Usually 30 minutes.

On Tuesday, I watched Rays minor league pitching coordinator Dick Bosman conduct pickoff drills when someone asked me, “Didn’t they go over this last year?”

Yes, but what is baseball if not repetition.

Anyway …

The real work begins when the position players take their cuts and the sound of a wood bat on a baseball sings throughout the land.

If the hitters are in town, the exhibition games can’t be too far away, and if it is almost exhibition season, well, can the regular season be far behind?

My favorite full-squad workout moment occurred in 2000 when Jose Canseco finally arrived at Rays camp. Devil Rays camp back then.

He reported late, of course. He always did.

Greg Vaughn was the big addition that spring, the key piece of the soon-to-be failed “Hit Show.”

Canseco arrived with all the bells and whistles that accompanied his arrival. He joked about the glove in his locker.

“What’s this?” he asked, holding up the straight-from-the-factory glove wrapped in plastic as if it were a foreign object, which to Canseco, it was.

Then he made his way to a practice field and sat in a dugout with Vaughn, and they talked.

And talked.

And talked.

For like a half hour.

And fans stood and watched, and photographers captured the scene, and reporters scribbled in their notebooks.

For 30 minutes nothing happened, and it was the story of the day.

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