Friday, February 26, 2010

Doug Glanville has a great piece in the Times -- spring training is what we desire but it is the end of desire for ballplayers

Just finished a wonderful read. Doug Glanville writes about baseball and life for the New York Times and his latest is an absolute delight.

Glanville writes about what spring training means to the emotional life of a ballplayer. If you think about it, the event we desire all winter means, to some extent, the end of desire for ballplayers, at least for a while. Every year of their baseball lives they have to pull up stakes in early February and pack themselves off to Florida or Arizona.

What happens to those left behind? How do they cope? As Glanville asks, does the heart grow fonder or is the relationship out of sight, out of mind?

When you think about the extraordinary amount of money ballplayers take home, remember they have no real home from February through October, if they are lucky. There's a line about this in a Hank Williams Jr. song: "I've always had everything I wanted / except a home." Life on the road is the price you pay.

I know a guy who went to spring training once as a young man and received a minor league contract. The contract would have paid him a small fraction of what he made at the plant back home. Living in his Florida motel room while he was out chasing his spring training dream, were his wife and two of his children. He really had no choice, did he? He turned it down.

Professional baseball is cruel that way. It demands all of you, every bit of you, for nine months. A lot of us have said we'd give up everything for one at-bat in the major leagues... or San Angelo Texas, for that matter. Maybe we would, but probably we wouldn't. And, genetics aside, the reason we would never even be confronted with the choice is the same. Major league ballplayers not only give up everything else they could love for nine months every year of their careers, they gave up everything else to get there.

Henry Wiggen was pretty lucky. He was able to balance his life away from his wife and family in Perkinsville and baseball in New York City with only an occasional hitch. But as the books went on, it was easy for a reader to feel the pull of other loves against the aging southpaw. Mark Harris was wise to know this. And, the Glanville piece in today's Times, is a wise account of it.

Photo: Rick Piling -- Getty Images

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