Last week, Beth and I went to a spring training baseball game in West Palm Beach, Florida, to see our beloved Astros beat the Braves, 6-1. The stadium was nearly full and the stars of the defending World Champs were in the game, including Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Tickets cost $34 each, parking was $10, and hot dogs were full price. For the day, we dropped close to $100. They played nine innings, kept score, passed out programs, and argued balls and strikes. The fans cheered, booed, and wore their team colors. It was just like every other game – except for one thing.
It didn’t count.
When the preseason is over, they throw away all the stats and start over with the regular season. Spring training home runs, stolen bases, and runs scored count for absolutely nothing. Zero. Zilch.
Here’s the deal. The preseason has one purpose – to get the players ready for the regular season. The preseason is much shorter. It’s okay for players to make mistakes; in fact, it’s expected. In the preseason there will be lots of errors (two in the first inning today), wild pitches, and passed balls. And that’s alright, because in a few years, everyone will look back and not even remember what happened in the preseason. We know Hank Aaron had 755 home runs in the regular season, but even he doesn’t know how many he hit in spring training.
Spring training does serve one purpose. That is when they determine what team everyone is playing for. They have this thing called a 40-man roster and something called spring training invitees. If the Coach invites you to join the team, you get to decide whether or not to sign up. Any sane player does sign up; it would be crazy not to. And so he is on the team. And whatever happens in spring training becomes a distant memory when the regular season begins.
This life is spring training. It seems very real. We keep score, run the bases, and make some good plays. Along the way, we also make errors. Every year about 1,000 players will play significant innings in the major leagues. Every one of them will make an error. The year Babe Ruth set the record of 60 home runs, he also led the league with 58 strikeouts. No one is all good and no one is all bad. What matters is whether or not you are on the team.
The real season, the one that really counts, the one that’s really long, is still to be played. Sure, some of us will end spring training with a higher batting average than others, and will have put more runs on the board than some. But when the regular season begins, none of that will matter. There will be no need for a scoreboard, because by just being on the team, we will have already won. So go ahead and play your spring training games. Enjoy the preseason. But don’t worry too much about wins and losses, because the league Commissioner is going to tear up all the scorecards anyway.
The regular season will be here before you know it.