The Season Before The Season

I told a friend that if I got a lazy snow day at home this week, I would definitely write about baseball and Spring Training – the season-before-the-season.

I forgot the part about having electricity.

So, what began as a rare and beautiful snowy “off day” in a winter that hasn’t had much in the way of snow …

dotty snow

Quickly morphed into a brutal and ugly struggle for survival as a heavy, wet snow took out nearly every tree and power line in Central Virginia. (I’m estimating here, but we had either 10 inches or 8 feet of snow … I couldn’t tell for sure.)

snow day2

The Day After — the slushy, muddy, messy road to our house, after all the tree limbs were cleared away.

No power means a couple things. No heat. No light. No flushing. No internet. Clearly this would not be easy.

It would be a difficult struggle. Our very lives teetered on the brink.

I wore mittens, for God’s sake. IN THE HOUSE. Do you know how hard it is to turn the page on your Kindle wearing mittens? It is impossible.

Yes, we struggled. For six long and torturous hours.

(For point of reference, six hours is like sitting through a 17-inning game. Now, imagine it while wearing seven layers of clothing. And, then your team loses.)

Then, the power came back on.

(My husband and trusty editor would like you to know he napped through most of it.)

The lights lit. The water ran. The house toasted. Why are we more civilized than squirrels? We flush.

I’ve been easing my way into baseball this season. Just like the players, the umps, and the broadcasters, Spring Training is a time for fans to find our rhythm, too. Time to figure out who’s playing where. Time to choose the lucky tee-shirt I’ll wear during must-win games (Manny Machado, #13, don’t let me down).

mannytee

Time to block off the calendar. You’re getting married/having a baby/throwing a party when? April? June? July? September? No, no, I’m afraid I can’t, I’ll be watching baseball.

Time to dissolve into an easy, loping pace. Because easy and loping is the only way you’ll make it through the season without burning out or giving up.

And, if I can get my easy loping skills down (and, as I said, I’m still in spring training) it might be an equally long blog season here. So, settle in …

Sitting in a dark, cold house – mitten-clad – on a wet, snowy, powerless day made me ask myself, “What Spring Training places would be preferable to sitting in a dark, cold house during a March snowstorm in Virginia?”

The correct answer is: all of them.

But, why should I simply plow through all 30 Spring Training locales on this blog when you can just turn on MLB Network, probably right this very second, and catch a game beamed live out of Florida or Arizona?

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida. Spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. Go O's!

Ed Smith Stadium, Sarasota, Florida. Spring home of the Baltimore Orioles. Go O’s!

That’s when I came up with my list of the most amazing Spring Trai… …

… …

Well, that’s enough for today.

Just like the players, who ease in by playing a few innings here or there, or knock off at noon so they can get in some golf, or just skip the bus ride to the away game entirely, I’m gonna wrap up for today. Can’t push too hard, too early, or risk injury.

But, I’ll be back tomorrow … or the next. Because we’ve got lots of Spring Training ahead, before the real season even begins. (And, don’t forget the World Baseball Classic. Oh, so much to do! Oh, so much to watch!)

Go Out & Have Fun

Sometimes my Yoga students scowl in class. They try so hard to move into – or stay in – an asana (pose). They want to succeed and show their body who’s boss.  And, their faces get all scrunched up sometimes, and their brows crinkle. They are trying so hard to be perfect.

When I see all the serious frowns in class, I’ll remind them to soften their face or smile. Or, I’ll say something irrelevant and stupid to get them to lighten up.

After all, it’s only a pose.

There is so much stress in our daily lives, no need to make more on the mat. It’s important to remember the playfulness of Yoga.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that for me Yoga and baseball have many parallels.

And, so here’s where baseball gets serious, too.

The Baltimore Orioles clinched yesterday. They’re now assured at least one playoff game for the first time in 15 years. They’ve proven their many, many, many, (many) detractors wrong. They have heartily and forcefully won the arguments of those who said their season was merely luck.

And, as they played yesterday (sweeping the Red Sox incidentally), I noticed a change in the fans. Lots of happy. Lots of cheering. But, also, lots of serious. People clenching their hands, frowning with worry, on the verge of tears. I was tense, too.

My Editor/Husband (formerly a Yankees fan, but now coming over from the dark side to all that is good and Oriole), is getting a bit testy during the games as well – barking at a crummy pitch or a poorly played ball. (Hi Honey. Lighten up on Jim Johnson will you? He’s fine.) I tend to look away during tense moments, try not to care too much, to ease the stress.

I talk a good game – I love baseball, because it’s baseball. I love the Orioles because they’re the team that “brung me”. I don’t get swept up in the victories. I love the game for the game.

But, now I’m getting excited. And, getting stressed because the games mean something more.

Over-zealous fans sort of bug me. There they are rubbing it in loudly with every victory … and then getting angry or defensive with the next loss. They seem to take it too seriously sometimes.

They miss the point.

It’s only baseball. It’s a game. 

Manny Machado is smiling & having fun. So, I will, too.

Orioles third-baseman Manny Machado (Hakuna Machado!) said in a recent interview that Orioles Skipper Buck Showalter has reminded everyone to have fun.

And, that’s the lesson for me this week, too … even if it only goes one extra post-season game.

It’s too darn fun to be in a playoff race to let stress and tension and worry mess up the good.

Strangely, I think I carried some of the excitement and stress over to my Yoga mat yesterday.  I think I hyper-extended my sternum.  I’m not even sure that one can do that.  But, I think I did … trying to be a Yoga superstar and push through a pose, trying to show my body who’s boss.

Life is stressful.

But, Yoga shouldn’t be. And, neither should baseball.

So, I’m going to enjoy this week, no matter what it brings.

Go O’s!

Lotsa Luck

Many years ago, I had a neighbor who was an elderly widow. One morning she went outside and discovered that someone — we never found out who – had deposited a healthy, little puppy in her front yard. It was clearly not an accident. We decided that someone knew how lonely our neighbor was and decided she needed a companion. She named her puppy Lucky. And, yeh, he was a pretty lucky pup. He was lucky our neighbor was up to a task she didn’t ask for. She kept good care of her pup, although a bit of housetraining would have been a nice touch.

So, let’s talk about luck.

Because the notion of luck often rankles me.

Has anyone ever told you that your success or the fruits of your efforts were lucky? Someone once told me, quite kindly, that I was very lucky that my massage therapy practice was doing well during such tough economic times.

Luck? That’s it? I’m just lucky? OK, maybe. But, maybe, just maybe — and I’m going out on a limb here — but maybe, my clients have found some value in my work. Maybe I’m good at my job. I know they didn’t mean anything rude by it. And, yes, I do believe that random things happen that influence one’s success or failure. Right time, right place. That can lead to a bit of good luck. But, to suggest that someone’s good fortune is pure luck … well, that’s just unfair.

And, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, the Baltimore Orioles are more than lucky, too.  Maybe, they’re a good baseball team.

I am so tired of the so-called baseball experts who have decided that since the Orioles’ success this year doesn’t fit into their neat little mold of what makes a team good … that the statistics show that the Orioles should be no better than average … that there’s no way they could possibly be in a pennant race in September … then, surely, the only answer is that they have been lucky.

This has gone on all season. The chatter started already in April. They couldn’t explain why the Orioles were winning. That’s because there’s no easy way to chart intangibles – like team dynamics, players improving over previous seasons, or the zen-like influence of a manager like the Orioles’ Buck Showalter. And, without the intangibles, yeh, sure, the Orioles sort of looked beatable on paper. So, without bothering to think through the intangibles, a lot of sports talkers – ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and, just yesterday, National Public Radio among them – decided the Orioles had to be simply lucky.

I say, they’re wrong. Baseball statisticians haven’t found a way to quantify intangibles. But, that doesn’t mean those intangibles don’t exist.

If luck drove sports, then wouldn’t every team hover around .500? A little good luck. A little bad luck.

Or, how about this — maybe everything is luck. If the Orioles win a game, are they lucky? Sure. They’re lucky it didn’t rain and stop the game. They’re lucky that their winning pitcher didn’t fall down the dugout steps and dislocate his shoulder before the game. They’re lucky that the losing team scored fewer runs.

Every team has their good luck. And, their bad luck.

But, luck doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What those “experts” call luck, I call a good mixture of talent, heart, skills, and smarts. The Intangibles (which, by the way, would be a terrific title for an action movie).

In the case of the Orioles game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, I guess you could say the O’s are lucky that their superstar rookie is Manny Machado and not Bryce Harper.

And, here’s just one reason why. Enjoy one of the most beautiful, exciting, and head’s up defensive plays of the year, courtesy of a 20-year-old rookie. Did he just get lucky? You decide.

Click here to watch.

Oh, and the Orioles won again today. (yippee!) Wrapping up a three-game sweep of the surging Tampa Bay Rays. So, I guess all that luck of theirs hasn’t run out yet.