As Spring Training approaches, and the world sits comfortably on its axis, I get really excited. Like it is for most baseball fans and hill-climbers on a roller coaster and lovers before dinner, the heat of anticipation is among the sweetest parts of what we get to experience in this life.
Under other circumstances, the anticipation of baseball returning after a nearly nine-month absence would be nearly unbearable. Eyes widening. Pulse and breaths quick, enthusiasm unbridled.
But that time is not this time. The world sits only tenuously on its axis, and none of the things we collectively anticipate at this moment are even remotely sweet.
So it is today that Chicago Cubs players officially report for Summer Camp, the resumption of Spring Training at the outset of an attempt to play an abbreviated 2020 MLB season amid a pandemic that otherwise devours so much of our lives. I’m hopeful it can be pulled off. I’m also thinking of the testing and protocols and risks that kick in, starting today.
I don’t really know what to say to you this morning, because the natural hype I’d feel is wrapped up in too much cognitive dissonance about what is right, what is fair, what is good, and what is just too damn risky. I want to see baseball return. I want to enjoy it. I want the players to enjoy it. I want the team employees to feel meaning in what they’re doing. I want fans to feel a sense of community again. But I also want everything to be safe. Probably, deep down, I want everything to be safe in a way I know it cannot realistically be.
So today is challenging. I can’t do the whole “CUBS PLAYERS REPORT TODAY WOO!” thing because I feel more like I’m sitting, nodding, observing, and thinking, “OK, today is a day. Lots more days after this one before the WOO arrives. Today is a day.”
Whatever hype I might have available to offer is subdued. Cautious. Caveated. Today is less the start of the return of baseball, and more the start of increasing our worries about the return. Today is less about hype, and more about hope.
We’ll see what happens. Tomorrow we’ll say the same. Ditto the next day. And maybe, if we’re all very lucky, within a couple weeks, we’ll be less in a place of “seeing what happens,” and more in a place of “watching and enjoying what happens.”
Players start reporting today, and the first team workout is scheduled for Friday. I’m so very eager to experience this stuff with all of you. I’m certainly ready to feel some moments, however brief, of unreserved joy. Let’s see what happens.