Posted by: Ryan | March 6, 2011

The Shape of Things to Come

There was a time, less than ten years ago, when I would take a complete, winter-enforced hiatus from All Things Baseball between November and April.

I’d avoid the Boston Globe, especially the pained rants of Dan Shaughnessy, (a.k.a. The Curly-Haired Boyfriend). I wouldn’t take part in hot stove speculation, wouldn’t attempt to ameliorate ice storms by dreaming of free-agent signings in mid-December.

It felt like a healthy separation, especially in those years when each Red Sox season brought a new type of heartache. I needed to recover a bit before I was ready yet again to listen to Joe and Jerry on the AM radio every evening.

That’s a lot harder now. I was too lazy to change my Twitter feeds in November, so all winter I’ve been getting a steady diet of Globe Red Sox updates (thankfully delivered by writers other than The CHB). I’ve been reading the 2011 Baseball Prospectus (thicker than the Martyr’s Mirror, and way less gruesome), which recaps every Major League club’s 2010 season, and makes predictions for the coming year.

Graphic: Prospect Handbook coverA few weeks ago, I received my copy of Baseball America’s 2011 Prospect Handbook, which lists the top 30 minor league players for each franchise, and serves as an excellent guide for taking in minor league games. My copy from last year is pleasantly dog-eared, complete with squashed mayflies from a Fisher Cats’ game in June, and the little black dots I put beside the names of every player I saw, including some who ascended to The Bigs at September call-ups (I’m talkin’ to you, Domonic Brown.)

It’s raining hard this morning, turning the top layer of snow into dirty slush. The Eye on the Sky says the rain will change to snow by evening, adding a couple more inches to the 2-1/2 feet we still have on the ground. I haven’t seen grass since Christmas, and the long-anticipated evening when we’ll eat with the storm door open, or – be still my heart – dine on the patio, seems impossibly far away.

So while I’m still not one of those people who celebrates Truck Day, or watches Spring Training games, I’ve been dealing with gray, rainy March by thinking of May, and making promises for the baseball season to come:

  • I vow to see multiple Vermont Lake Monsters games up in Burlington, cementing my transition from a mere fan to someone who follows the June Amateur Draft, and knows the names of the players assigned to Short Season A ball before they arrive in Vermont.
  • I’ll try to best my previous high of seeing four Fisher Cats games in a season, a goal made more attainable by a change in my work responsibilities that requires more trips to Manchester. (This, of course, pains me greatly).
  • On a trip to PA in early May, I’ll take in an 11:05 am game at Reading with my wife and daughter, and then – on Mother’s Day – we’ll travel to Scranton to see the PawSox play the Scranton Yankees in their ’70’s-style double-decker stadium. (I know, I know: nothing says, “Thanks for bearing our child” more than Triple-A baseball in early May in Scranton. But in my defense, it *is* the day before my birthday.)
  • At some point in the season, we’ll go to Portland, Maine to visit Peak’s Island, eat oysters by the waterfront, check out the trendy shops, and, ahem, watch the Sea Dogs.
  • I’ll add to my life list of minor league baseball stadiums. Lowell, the home of the Red Sox’ Single A affiliate, is an obvious target.

In the meantime, I’ll write a number of essays leading up to the season. I’ll also make a few changes to this blog, the equivalent of stretching and throwing in the Florida sun. Bear with me as I practice covering first base on grounders to the right side, and get back in game shape.

And, as always, thanks for reading…

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