We continued to run from winter by going further south, all the way to Kissimmee, Florida. I’m a baseball fan — actually a fantasy baseball aficionado — and the lure of seeing the world’s best players in parks that seat fewer than 10,000 hinders while most of the country endures 20-something wind chill is too sweet to resist.
I am an Atlanta Braves fan but they will be among baseball’s very worst teams for at least three years, more likely a decade. I’m also too old to put up with a half-hearted rebuilding program, so I say “Forget you, Bravos!” Will I find another team, or just become a purer fantasy player, a guy with absolutely zero team allegiance? The latter course feels likely. I respect the Pirates organization (a small market team doing a lot of things right), and I look forward to seeing the Cubs and Astros playing October games once again. All of those teams have truckloads of excellent young ballplayers, and WGN televises most Cubs day games coast to coast. But I’ve been a Braves guy since 1957; the best way for me to survive their impending years of squalor is to go agnostic on teams.
We chose to catch an Astros game, despite Kissimmee also being the Braves’ spring training site. The Astros hosted the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the best-run teams in all of baseball for many years. The Cards are also the new home of one of Atlanta’s best young stars, Jason Heyward. The Braves sent him to the Cardinals for a pitching prospect who disappointed everybody in 2014. My buddy Walter and I saw Heyward in spring training five years ago (Heyward homered to dead center) and I wanted to appreciate the loose athleticism of J Hey one more time. I also wanted to see superstars-to-be George Springer and Carlos Correa of the Astros.
That we did. Heyward looked good and hit a couple of smoking line drives. Springer did as well, and stole a base. He slides head-first; guys who do that break fingers and jam wrists. Correa is a really big guy who plays shortstop, the little guy’s position, but he started a smooth double play and looked very comfortable in the field and at bat. I had my eye on the Cardinals’ starter, Carlos Martinez, but he couldn’t find the plate often enough. He threw at least one killer changeup, which is the pitch he must develop (along with better control) to start in The Show. I suspect Mr. Martinez will begin the season in the minors, or if in St. Louis, as a relief pitcher. Yes, he was that bad.
But don’t cry for Carlos. Even if he’s a reliever, Major League Baseball’s minimum wage is $507,500, plus free plane tickets, bus rides from the hotel to the park, and $106 in cash per day while on the road for meal money. That ain’t hay.
So, why do so many guys choose football?