Spring training is here at last! Well, for pitchers and catchers, anyway. The full teams won’t show for another week. But the phrase “pitchers and catchers report” still has a special meaning for baseball players, and fans, too.
I started Approaching Twi-Night in a spring training setting partly because of my personal experience with spring training. I played baseball in high school for four years and only once did I attempt to attend the early spring training session for pitchers and catchers. I say “tried” because, quite obviously, I was not successful.
In high school, I was the second-smallest student in my grade. I didn’t reach the towering height of 5’9″ until I was in college (where I also reached the massive weight of 150 lbs…this, unfortunately, does not represent my maximum…)
In the summer between my 10th and 11th grade years, I had been asked to warm-up on the sidelines of a Pony League game just in case a new pitcher was needed. I was so eager to impress, so desperate to show off the curve and the slider that I had been practicing by repeatedly breaking boards on the back of my family’s shed (not on purpose…).
I never entered the game. But I never took my eye off the pitcher then, and I was determined to join the pitching ranks of my high school team the following spring.
It’s cold in Upstate. Very cold. Snowy, too. This past winter has seen more snow than any winter since…well, since I was in high school, when we used to get snow like this all the time. Practicing on the field was out of the question. Pitchers and catchers started in the gymnasium, which at the time was more than a few decades old and had nails sticking up out of parts. Once the parking lots were cleared, we sometimes practiced there, too, taking ground balls from the asphalt.
Makes you appreciate a nicely mown and raked field, I’ll tell you that for nothing.
As I wrote already, I didn’t make the pitchers’ cut. I was too short. Also, had no experience. So back to left field I went. Pitchers were the elite of the team, the cream of the crop…the coach’s favorites (and sometimes relatives, too, though that was not supposed to matter…). As a wannabe-writer, I had begun several attempts at baseball stories in addition to mystery and science fiction stories. I had, until that point, always made the main character an infielder, or a rogue outfielder who wanted to be an infielder. Everybody in high school ball got stuck in the outfield at first. The infield was where all the action was. But then I got the idea about writing with a pitcher as a main character. Why not? They were the elite, after all.
It just took me a few years longer than I imagined to finally get the words down…