A GRIP ON SPORTS
Is it warmer outside? Is the sun shining brighter? Is there a spring in your step? All those things should be true. After all, spring training is starting today around the country. Summer is just around the corner. Read on.
• It happens every spring. No, we're not talking about the crazy old black-and-white Ray Milland baseball movie about the professor and the elixir that repels wood. We're talking about the rebirth of the baseball season. Today, catchers will report to spring training sites all over Florida and Arizona, dragging along their anchors, the pitchers. There is just something about this day that gets my blood moving. It always has. The idea that baseball will be on the radio soon. That box scores will reappear in the newspaper. That the weather will warm, flowers will bloom and umpires will miss calls. Spring is here, even if the calendar doesn't catch up for another month. (By the way, that could be me in the New Yorker cartoon shown here, though I don't wear sun glasses.) Some of my best memories of baseball come from spring training. My dad used to take me out of school for a few days each year and we would drive to Palm Springs to watch the Angels, where a young boy could hobnob (ya, that was a word then; a word people actually used) with major league players (somewhere downstairs I have a Polaroid of myself with Angels' second baseman Bobby Knoop) and chase down foul balls (I got my only one ever off the bat of Knoop, hence the picture). A magical time, even for a boy from Southern California who played baseball year round. But the words "pitchers and catchers report" took on new meaning when we moved to Spokane, home of the six-week summer and 100 days of winter (just kidding; I love it here, though I do wish June featured a few more nice days). After endless days shoveling snow, the promise of spring took on new meaning. Even in the dark days of the Mariners, back in the 1980s when a winning record was only a hope, never a reality, spring training's beginning meant something special. And it still does. Maybe it's because the Mariners have returned to those same expectations ("a winning record was only a hope, never a reality"). Maybe it's because I've gotten older and understand there is a finite number of springs awaiting all of us. Or maybe it's just because I've always loved baseball, the sights, the sounds, the smells of the game. Maybe James Earl Jones had it right in "Field of Dreams," when he delivered Terrence Mann's "People will come" speech. "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again." In this era of PEDs and long-term contracts, I'm not sure the game seems as lyrical as it once did, but the one constant is spring. The beginning. The hope. The day pitchers and catchers report. Magic.
• Gonzaga: The writers agreed with you folks. The Zags were ranked fifth by the Associated Press on Monday, in line with a plurality of the votes we received in our poll yesterday who thought they should be fifth or lower. The coaches had a higher opinion of GU, ranking them third in the nation. ... Jim Meehan was at Gonzaga's media day yesterday and filed this notebook, leading with the ever-changing face of the Bulldogs' starting lineup. He also had a blog post yesterday with more. ... USA Today has a feature on Kelly Olynyk's season. ... What does the future hold for the University of Portland basketball program?
• Washington State: Christian Caple weighs in today with his morning blog post and will be back later with Ken Bone's press conference. ... As we told you yesterday, Dennis Erickson is back in coaching as an assistant at the University of Utah. ... Andrew Furney's Apple Cup success story is one of last season's top performances according the ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog. ... Colorado is a still a contender in the conference this season.
• Preps: There was a smattering of basketball games last night around the area and we have a roundup. There are a lot more tonight – we'll be at U-Hi for the late-starting boys game – and we'll have the links for you in the morning. ... Greg Lee followed up with a story and blog post on Kent Leiss (pictured) and the Coeur d'Alene boys basketball coaching position.
• Mariners: The biggest questions today when pitchers report to Peoria concerns the health of Felix Hernadez's elbow – and his contract. But Felix won't meet with the press today, though his contract extension is supposed to be worked out soon. There might be some language in it to protect the M's long-term investment. ... Optimism reigns supreme in Arizona. It is spring training after all. But even Bill James seems to be caught up in Mariners fever. ... The bullpen is filled with young arms. ... The last free agent Seattle was looking at, Michael Bourn, signed with Cleveland.
• Sounders: When the most important items of the day concerns the uniforms, you know it's a slow day. Or you are 19 years old. ... The roster is still in flux, though some cuts were made. And the schedule is coming together.
• It's not only the ninth circle of hell that should have a sign that says "abandon all hope, ye who enter here." Maybe that also should be on a sign over the entrance at Safeco. Just kidding. It's Feb. 12. We all still have hope. Now, June 12, that's a different story. Until later ...