With the posting of Chapter 20 we’ve now reached the end of Part II of the story. Some of the characters you may have grown fond of will disappear, at least for a while (a long while in some cases). Others will take their place and hopefully they’ll capture your imagination as well.
This chapter is longer than most, so much so that I seriously considered breaking it into two smaller chapters. There is a lot happening in the chapter and a lot of what happens will be emotionally charged. In the end, I decided not to split the chapter in half, but be sure to leave enough time so you can read it in a leisurely way.
Chapter 20 covers the period from mid-November, when Ethan arrives back home from Arizona, to the end of April the following year. It takes in spring training and the beginning of Ethan’s second year in the minor leagues.
In my introduction to Chapter 19 last week, I discussed how the baseball season typically concludes in September and October. I thought I would round out that discussion by saying a few words about how the season begins again the following year.
Spring training is a special time of year, one when baseball feels more little league than big league, the players more human than heroes. It’s a time for renewal and rituals and it seems like very little changes from year to year.
Some major league teams train in Florida in the southeastern United States; others in Arizona in the southwest. Their minor league affiliates typically train close by although some minor league players may be invited to work out with their major league colleagues at the beginning of spring training.
It’s a special kind of reward for promising prospects (and some older veterans who may have played previously at the major league level). Occasionally one of those prospects or veterans will do well enough in spring training to end up being promoted to the majors; however, it’s far more usual for most prospects to be sent back to continue training with the minor league teams they’re assigned to at some point.
Spring training typically begins with a mid-February call for pitchers and catchers to report to camp; then a week or so later the rest of the baseball team begins to show up. Despite the staggered reporting dates many position players will already be in camp practicing with the pitchers and catchers when the rest of the team arrives.
That’s especially true for players who’ve been injured and/or undergone surgery during the off-season. They like to get to camp as early as possible, partly to show they’re ready to play again, partly to shake off any rust that may have developed while they were not playing, and partly to reclaim jobs that may have been filled by someone else while they were recovering.
In baseball, there are no guarantees you’ll ever get your job back if you’re injured and someone takes your place.
Once everyone is in camp, the teams hold daily workouts for a couple of weeks before they play any games with other teams. Practices generally begin in the morning somewhere between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and are usually over by lunchtime.
If you’re in Florida or Arizona and looking to take in these practice sessions, it’s best to arrive early rather than late. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for autographs from the players, you may have better luck as they depart the practice field for their clubhouse around noon.
Eventually the pace of spring training picks up and teams will start playing Cactus or Grapefruit League games against one another; and then finally they’ll break camp, return home and begin their season in April.
Along with some other things, we’ll learn a bit more about all of this in Chapter 20. Have fun reading and be sure to let me know what you think.