I think every year my spring training experience goes by about twice as fast as the previous trip.
It seems like we just arrived in south Florida. But already it's time to go. And it's with a heavy heart that I start to head north. I really wish this trip could have gone on forever.
My soon to be five year old son was just along for the ride in years past. But we really had the special bonding moment that baseball is all about this year. Sure, he still falls asleep during games at some point or another. But he's a lot more in tune now to what is going on than he has ever been before. He senses that the games are special -- and that's he's lucky to have the chance to go.
He's old enough to understand what's happening on the field. To ask intelligent questions. And to take part in the rituals of baseball.
It was really something to watch him wait patiently for an hour behind the Cardinals dugout at Roger Dean Stadium during batting practice and pre-game warm-ups for a chance to ask players for their autograph. Cute as a buttom with a ball in one hand and a pen in the other while he sported his 1940s vintage Cardinals cap, he successfully snagged three signatures. Certainly more than anyone around him. He was so excited that he hugged me as hard as he could each time a player agreed to sign.
The moment was almost spoiled when his ball slipped out of his hand and rolled across the concrete roof of the dugout and onto the floor just as the announcer said it was time to go back to our seats. But he was such a hit with fans that, before I could say a word, other people in the area started calling out to people in the dugout to get his ball for him. A helpful camera man went and got it and handed it over before the welling up tears could even start to flow.
For a while, the locale of Albert Pujols, the cost of tickets or the price of gas didn't matter. It was all about memories that will last a lifetime between a boy and his dad. I hope someday he thinks as much of our times in Jupiter as I do now.