I’m not exactly sure when it became fashionable for networks such as MASN to televise Spring Training games. By no means am I knocking it mind you, because I enjoy watching the games and seeing how the team is looking early on. Plus as a writer having Spring Training games to actually see and write about it a valuable tool. As a kid however, I don’t recall Home Team Sports televising Oriole Spring Training games. This is not to say that they didn’t, however needless to say the amount of coverage, access, print, and talk dedicated to Spring Training (really sports in general) has grown considerably over the years.
Years ago the only opprotunity that fans had to see their favorite teams before Opening Day was if they took a trip to Florida (or Arizona). Any many people would do just that. Occasionally a game would be aired on the radio, however exhibition sporting events were not the draw that they are today. To draw a comparison with the NFL, we all know the “monster” into which preseason football has been made. If anything, there seems to be more of a pushback from NFL fans (most of whom are also MLB fans mind you) in that they don’t want to have access and buy tickets to preseason games. They say that the games are glorified practices and that the product is too watered down. (I’ve even heard people compare preseason football to programs such as the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills, which I feel is a stretch.) Yet there’s an unprecedented amount of coverage being given to games which don’t mean anything in the season’s standings. The NFL Network airs every game at some point (either live or on delay).
Exhibition football and baseball games have turned into big business. Now teams such as the Orioles, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, etc., are starting to build majestic facilities in places such as Sarasota and Ft. Myers which are operated by the team on a year-round basis. So naturally Spring Training is huge; however is that always a good thing? Exhibition football and baseball games have turned into big business. Now teams such as the Orioles, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, etc., are starting to build majestic facilities in places such as Sarasota and Ft. Myers which are operated by the team on a year-round basis. (Ironically, exhibition games are where owners make a lot of their top-line revenue because they actually don’t have to pay the players for those games.) So naturally Spring Training is huge; however is that always a good thing? Is it possible to have “too much access” too early on?The reason that these Spring Training games are played is to allow the players to get into shape for the regular season, and to work off the rust that might have accumulated while they sat idle in the off season. We saw a lot of that rust in the game the other night against Pittsburgh; the Oriole infield botched a few potential double-plays, and Matt Wieters even had a tough time getting the ball out of his glove on a steal attempt. J.J. Hardy was a runner-up for the gold glove at his position last year, and Wieters won the gold glove at his position; in a few months time have they lost their skills or forgotten how to play? Of course not, they just need to work off the rust. The same is true of hitters in that I noticed a lot of guys with their timing off and chasing balls in the dirt. Did Adam Jones fall that far behind in the off season? Again, that’s off season rust working it’s way out of his system.
I have no doubt that everyone will be ready to go by April 6th. My point is how good of an idea is it to allow average run-of-the-mill fans to see this? I saw a lot of comments on twitter and on message boards the other night to the tune of “the O’s are in mid-season form” and so forth. So it’s easy to watch a Spring Training game and get yourself in a tizzy to the idea that the team is going to be a total joke after seeing some of those things. It’s not uncommon for several errors to be committed in these games, especially at the beginning. That’s why they play them, so as to get that out of their system. Granted nobody will remember any of this after the regular season begins, however why give people a false idea of what the team will be about? I suppose now that Spring Training is so big they really can’t go back, however the fact is that what Oriole fans saw the other night is far from the finished product.
I’ve been in and around sports since I was a child as a player, coach, and a fan. I consistently led the league in technical fouls when I was a basketball coach, and one famous incident I was tossed out of a game for protecting a player from poor officiating. The Orioles beat the Oakland A’s 4-2 the first time my father took me to Memorial Stadium as a kid, and I was hooked for life. While the “old lady” was far from a thing of beauty, to that point I had never seen grass so green, tasted hot dogs so good, or smelled beer so cold! Since that day many years ago, each time I'm at a ballgame I pay a bit of homage to that eight year old boy sitting in Memorial Stadium with his father. See you at the yard!