Sox vs. Twins. City of Palms Park, Fort Myers, Florida. By the time I get home it's the fourth inning.
Curt Schilling is holding his press conference after throwing a grand total of 19 pitches in his allotted two innings of work, and during the interview he seethes at the restriction, mentioning at several points that such a limited outing won't help him stretch his arm out.
It's a minor holiday of sorts, too: the first baseball broadcast of the year by Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. Remy and Orsillo discuss their off-season activities, covering such diverse topics as knee surgery, CSI: Miami and hockey. They work their banter in, as always, effortlessly among the necessary comments on the game.
After that, several young prospects and down-on-their-luck quadruple-A players blend together, at the plate, on the mound, all sporting their brilliant red shirts and the new spring training hats; in the case of the Sox, the hats are uniformly red, which minimizes the effect of the supremely ugly half-moons over the ears marking all the spring training hats this year. The pants on the new home uniform are brilliant white against the green of the grass, which is mowed around the mound in a businesslike criss-cross pattern.
The park is quiet, full of idle chatter. On the second error on a tough pick by the Sea Dogs' third baseman Chad Spann, who spent much of last year sidelined with a left ankle injury, someone boos loudly from the stands, the only jarring sound in what is otherwise a relaxed atmosphere.
The slap of the ball in the glove, the smack of the bat on the ball, the slap of the ball in a glove again. A nighttime wind blows across the NESN microphones. Remy and Orsillo banter about their inability to name everyone currently on the field for the Twins. They have their first official giggle fit.
Every year, this day has found me somewhat different. Not only in my life in general, but in how I feel about baseball. Last year I was starved for it and quickly drunk on the first sight of batters kicking the dirt; two years ago I felt rusty, somehow, watching the first game. This year it feels smooth and easy. Comments come automatically out of my mouth in midseason form: "Aw, he didn't even have his foot on the bag," a knowing, "ooh," as soon as a home run comes off a Twin's bat against Julian Tavarez.
It's February 28 and the living is easy. A meaningless, though abstractly significant, game in a mild climate, in a miniature ballpark, with a dugout full of unfamiliar faces--right now all that matters is that the Red Sox are back on television, and life is good.