Let’s all close our eyes and imagine we are hopping on a bus headed toward the sunny shores of Florida for a safari featuring stops at baseball spring training locales.
Our tour begins in Orlando, where I have been told there are talking mice the size of humans. Next to the big, magical castle that no one actually lives in sits Cracker Jack Stadium, the spring home of the Atlanta Braves. These Braves were chief in the land of the National League East until last season, when the Metropolitans from New York pillaged and burnt their lands and stole the title of chief of the NL East.
Next, we hop on I-95, head east and arrive in Melbourne, Fla., spring home of the Washington Nationals. These young patriots are still trying to find their identity in their third season in the nation’s capital. I do not fault them for their difficulties, however. How do you expect a team to instantly perform well as Nationals when only three years ago it called Canada its home? I actually proposed that its name be changed to the Washington Immigrants, but to no avail.
Driving south on 95, we next encounter the Cardinals of Saint Louis and the Marlins of Florida. Both of these species inhabit Roger Dean Stadium in the spring, but only the Cardinals can claim the title of reigning MLB champions. The Marlins’ youth and inexperience often gets them into deep water, but their new manager Fredi Gonzalez is hoping to take his school of fish back to school. Cardinal Albert Pujols is hoping to spread his wings once again and prove that he is one of the greatest hitters of this generation.
The southernmost spring training site that we will visit is beautiful Fort Lauderdale, home of the Baltimore Orioles. The birds from Maryland have it difficult in the American League East. Hopefully, legendary pitching coach Leo Mazzone can fix the pitching staff’s broken wings, since it collectively compiled the 13th worst earned run average in the American League.
Next, we will drive across the heart of the state to the Gulf of Mexico side. We arrive at Boston Red Sox camp at Fort Myers. The jocks in the red socks may have just acquired the final piece of the puzzle needed to trump Steinbrenner and his Yankee “Evil Empire” in the regular season in Daisuke Matsuzaka and his “gyroball.” Also located in Fort Myers are the Minnesota Twins. The Twins continue to produce some of the best results in all of baseball despite their low payroll. This should continue in the 2007 season if Johan Santana and his pitching staff can continue to have their way with opponents.
Traveling north, we will then see the Pirates of Pittsburgh in Longboat Key. The only thing that these Pirates have been stealing is their fans’ money for the better part of a decade. Captain Jack Wilson will bat second for a dreadful Pirates lineup, which will have ownership wondering, “Arrrrrrr we really this bad?”
The evil empire lurks roughly 60 miles north of Longboat Key at Legends Field. Joe Torre and his cast of Yankees won’t be able to find solace in the improved American League East. If Alex Rodriguez and the pitching staff continue to play poorly in the postseason, Torre will most likely be purchasing a house down here in Florida for retirement.
St. Petersburg is host to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Progress Energy Park. Some tourists, especially the Australian outdoorsmen type, are terrified of the killing machines known as sting rays. Though these sinister sting rays may scare people at first glance, they will soon come to realize the harmless nature of the Devil Rays. They are full of young talent stuck in a city that provides little support. The Devil Rays have better chances of being haunted by Steve Irwin than making the playoffs in their division. These Rays will not attack unless they are under attack or if they are facing the Yankees.
A tad north of St. Petersburg sits Bright House Networks Field, home to the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater. No one truly knows what a “Philly” is, but some taxonomists suggest that they could be descendants of their furry, green mascot “The Phanatic.” However, due to your tour guide’s affinity for these creatures, I will have to coin their proper scientific name, “The 2007 World Series Champions.”
That will be all for this rousing tour of Florida’s beautiful Grapefruit League. You can all now wake up, open your eyes and return to writing that 10-page paper that you somehow “forgot” to do over spring break. Take care, and we will see you all in Florida again in about 40 years or so when you decide that you have had enough of your 9-to-5 grind.
Justin DiBiase is a sophomore civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]