MLU: Approaching Spring Training

Today’s guest post comes from Minor League University (MLU) and Scotty Smalls.  Smalls is a professional baseball player currently playing in the Minor Leagues.  He is the creator of MLU, a baseball blog that takes you inside college and professional clubhouses to get a feel for what a life in baseball is all about. MLU shares stories and gives commentaries on the game, certain trends, particular players, and how baseball’s place in entertainment is viewed by actual ballplayers.  Follow his site by visiting him at minorleagueuniversity.blogspot.com.

Minor League University: Spring Training

One more day. After months of being asked when I would head to Spring Training, I had developed a signature response: “Not til early March.” The expression was in the holster at all times, cocked and loaded, ready to be fired back at anyone who asked the popular question.

I said it so many times that the phrase had lost all meaning. It was a concept that always seemed so distant and irrelevant at the moment. Although I was training on a daily basis, I had grown accustomed to my off-season life – baseball was on the back burner.

But today, as I began cleaning out my apartment and saying goodbye to friends, it hit me. It had quickly become “Early March,” and I was a mere twenty-four hours away from the beginning stages of the 2011 season. Baseball was near. One more day.

With that realization, my mind naturally began to wander: Am I ready? Did I do enough during the off-season? What level will I start at? What team will my friends start on?

As I go through this laundry list of anxiety-filled questions, I remind myself: “Baseball is fun.” All of these worries will be answered in time, but there’s nothing I can do about them right now as I clean my apartment bathroom thousands of miles away. In a game that’s famously played mostly “above the shoulders,” I must vanquish these doubts and negative thoughts and focus on the excitement of Spring Training.

Sunshine, laughter, baseball. These three things have come to define Spring Training and collectively serve as the main source of jealousy when I tell people of my destination. In the eyes of baseball fans, there are few things more laid back and enjoyable than a Spring Training game. The joy is contagious, as the entire baseball community has once again sprung to life with the start of a fresh season. It’s a magical month.  What’s there to worry about?

As the snow melts and Baseball Tonight returns to the ESPN daily lineup, I can’t help but get excited for the upcoming season. I’ve grown up watching this game, and now I have a chance to rub elbows with some of the best players in the world and play in a first class facility – life is good.

My love for baseball has been a constant my entire life, and my excitement for Spring Training only grows with each mention of the game that I hear, but I must admit, it’s somewhat of a tentative excitement.

As I head West for Spring Training, I’m all too aware that my departure marks the beginning of a six month period away from friends and loved ones – a time when I must leave the familiar faces of those with whom I spent the entire off-season. Hugs and dinners will be exchanged for phone calls and emails, always unsure of when you will see each other next. It’s a sad day leaving your family and friends – your life – behind to chase a dream, but it’s their support of your passion and your desire to make them proud that allows you to board that plane with excitement, not regret.

So it’s with a love for baseball and an anticipation of a great season ahead that I head to Arizona. I have lifted weights, run sprints, thrown long toss, and taken batting practice all off-season.  Now it’s time to play some ball.

Now, I just have to figure out how to get my entire life into this suitcase.

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