Here we go.
After a long winter of preparations, all the mental transitions to spring locked in when, at long last, we could see the players in uniform and in cleats and in one place. No more talking or planning or visualizing. All things coming into focus, like that pixilated Polaroid in “No Way Out.” Baseball time.
On Friday night, Elite 7U took on Momentum 8U (throw out the records), and came away with a 20-14 win. Saturday: 14-13 in Game One against the Apaches (after being down, 12-1), and 18-1 in Game Two against the same bunch.
Today, Sunday morning: The Rangers will have their first full squad workout of the 2012 season, after Ron Washington addresses the troops. Word is he won’t spend much time, if any, on Game 6 or Game 7, not that you’d expect anything different. Jon Daniels left 2011 in the visitors’ dugout in St. Louis and moved on, most notably at the top of the rotation and the back of the bullpen, and we have enough track record on the guys in uniform to know they moved on long before any of us were able to.
Yu Darvish has something far different to move on from, and while I haven’t watched any video of Jurickson Profar, Ryan Strausborger, Jake Skole, and Leury Garcia tracking his pitches or Mike Olt, Skole, and possibly Hanser Alberto attempting to hit off him, I’ve gotta be honest: Just seeing stills and footage of Darvish wearing Rangers blue and white instead of charcoal gray with a blue tie, and reading that he’s already joking around with teammates (in English – and Spanish) instead of holing himself up with an entourage or answering presser questions about whether he’s tried Texas barbecue . . . that’s all the awesomeness I needed from him for right now.
But, yeah, hearing Olt tell reporters Saturday after his live BP session against Darvish that he’s “never seen anybody make the ball move like that” was pretty great. And while Skole, the 2010 first-rounder, is only 20 years old with no experience over Low Class A, reading that every BP pitch Darvish threw him ended up in Yorvit Torrealba’s mitt paints a picture I look forward to seeing for myself.
I wish someone asked Santiago Chirino what Neftali Feliz’s stuff looked like. But there’s time.
There’s always that short list of pitchers who get the “impressing early in camp” tag. Always. And when the talk is generated from bullpen sessions and a dozen pitches with a Class A hitter in the box, the sensible reaction is to not react.
But, yeah, I kinda like it that three of the names being mentioned in that context are Koji Uehara and Martin Perez and Wilmer Font, each for a different reason.
I have no interest in reading (or writing) about Josh Hamilton’s contract or who owes whom. None. (Though his comment this morning that, when he reaches free agency eight and a half months from now, he’ll give Texas the first opportunity to sign him does resonate a bit.)
But the apparent fact that he’s come to camp 15 pounds lighter and feels no residual effects of his off-season sports hernia surgery, I’m into that. I’m a lot more zeroed in on what Hamilton can do for the Rangers in 2012 than what (and where) he’ll be a year from now.
Same with Mike Napoli and his ankle, and his contract.
Soon, I’ll profess my boredom with camp workouts and eagerness for games against people in other uniforms. Soon after that, I’ll be weary of Cactus League games and ache for April and the games that count.
But now? It’s all good.
As I watched three intense Little League games the last two days, with the kind of normally out-of-place chill in the air that feels a little more familiar now that we’re growing accustomed to late-October baseball in Texas, it reminded me that ever since a few months into fatherhood, I wondered what I ever worried about before and I couldn’t remember what it felt like not to be a Dad.
I’m happy to say that, this morning, as Wash gets ready to do what he does in a room full of Texas Rangers ballplayers and coaches and nobody else, in a way the fully official start to the 2012 season, I can’t remember what it felt like when every single Texas Rangers season ended in some degree of irrelevance, leaving me after a long baseball-less winter hoping desperately (and, I knew at some level deep down, probably uselessly) that it might be about to change.
Because all of that has changed.