(Last) Rites of Spring

It happens every spring. The faces may change, but the players stay the same.

It happens every spring.

The faces may change, but the players stay the same.

The aging veterans struggling for one more moment in the sun. The hotshot rookies looking to make it to “the show.” Player coming off injuries and surgeries, proving that they're back (and at 100%). Non-roster players hoping that they'll be picked up. Then you have the minority. The stars that already have their spot secured come Opening Day.

Four dozen or more players.

25 spots.

Let the competition begin.

"...if they red tagged me already."

"What do you mean?"

"It means the manager wants to see you because you just died and went to the minors.” ~ Major League (1989)

In psychics, for every action there is an opposite action.

The same holds true in spring training.

For every spot that becomes secure, a player is going up (to the majors), it also means one less spot on the roster, and eventually, someone is going down (to the minors).

No player (except for the previously mentioned stars) is immune, and “death” can come at anytime during the spring.

Most times, to save the soon-to-be deceased players’ humility, the news is first “softened” by one of the coaches the player trusts. Often, out of earshot of the other players and whispered in the players’ ear is the catchphrase, “the manager wants to see you in his office.”

With the diagnosis made, the slow death march to the manager’s office begins.

Not all players are that fortunate.

Over the years, ball clubs have been rather inventive when informing a player that he’s “history.”

One of the more consistently used methods is the “I’ve got good news/bad news variation. Where the player is complimented on their “talent” (the good news), but (which there always seems to be one) it won’t be for the big league club (but, hopefully, for one of the minor league clubs).

One of the most disheartening was when the New York Yankees had told pitcher Joe Verbanic that he made the big league club. Halfway up the Florida Turnpike on his way to New York with his family in tow, a toll collector, instructed to be on the lookout for his packed station wagon, broke the bad news.

To make matters worse, Verbanic had to pay the $1.50 toll not once, but twice.

Yet, players sent down or cut, should take heart.

Spring is eternal.

Next spring, the ritual, spring training begins anew, proof that it’s not only cats that have multiple lives, but ballplayers as well.

Wendy J Sotos is a Cleveland based writer who loves nothing more than a Jim Thome blast and an Omar Vizquel barehanded scoop. Both of which, she believes, will be Hall of Famers when their playing days are over.

Wendy can be reached at: designatedwriter@yahoo. com

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