Although I am looking forward to returning to my familiar position at Busch Stadium, I must admit that I'm a little bit sad to see spring training come to a close.
Unlike National Football League pre-season games, which are about as fun as watching paint dry, spring training baseball has a very special quality.
There's something about seeing the young prospects emerge that is very exciting for serious baseball fans. But what I really enjoy is the fact that the games don't count. While it's exciting to see the Cardinals win their way into the post season on a regular basis, it's refreshing to go to a spring training ballgame and not have to care if the home team wins or loses. It's all about the beauty of the game.
If the Redbirds were 10-12 three weeks into the regular season, I'd be losing sleep. But that same mark after Grapefruit League play? Yawn.
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Anybody who has ever attended a spring training game knows the score is the most important part of the game. It's the time for experimenting with new pitches, testing young players in game situations and practicing new strategies. There is no sense of pushing things and getting someone hurt in a practice game, after all. So there is nothing to fret about.
As long as the Cardinals are in the neighborhood of .500, I'm not going to be worried about it. They're a team that is set at every position with no real competition and nothing to prove. So it stands to reason that they're not going to be pushing as hard as a team like the Mets or the Marlins who have several players trying to win a job.
At spring training you can sit a couple rows behind home plate in seats that don't cost te equivalent of a car payment and rub elbows with superstar players. That's not happening at Busch Stadium.
It's part of the "burden" of being a Cardinals fan: Carrying the expectation of winning and being disappointed if it doesn't happen. And I'm not talking about winning more games than you lose. I am talking about championships. In 2013 the Redbirds came within ONE STEP of the top of the mountain. The ride was a ton of fun. But it was also very stressful and, ultimately, a bit disappointing.
Spring training is nothing but leisure. Now is time to get down to the serious business of worrying about the bullpen, the starting pitchers' health and strikeouts with runners in scoring position.