There's this scene in Bull Durham that I really love. Crash Davis is sitting on the back of the team bus strumming his guitar and telling the highly-touted prospect Nuke LaLoosh about the majors, or "The Show". He says,
" I was in the Show for 21 days, once. It was the greatest 21 days of my life. You never touch your luggage in the Show -- somebody else handles your bags. It's great. The ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service... [and the pitchers] throw ungodly breaking stuff in the Show--exploding sliders."
It's not really what he says that makes the scene so interesting, it's the reaction he gets from the surrounding players, players that will likely never reach the big leagues. It's like telling a young child that you've literally been to Santa's workshop; their eyes just light up.
That brings us to the Yankees' spring training. For players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and many others, this is a normal spring training. You do your workouts, take batting practice and face some live pitching, and you just try to stay healthy and warm yourself up. For others, this is a time to shine, a time to put on the pinstripes for the first time, or even the last. An amazing moment came during Saturday's game against the Red Sox, when Jorge Mateo and Aaron Judge both homered:
It was a really nice moment, and there's something down to Earth about Mateo speeding along the base paths, losing his helmet in the process. It's sloppy, it's beautiful, and it's fun. There's obviously a lot of buzz around both Judge and Mateo, but if we're being honest, we may never see them in pinstripes. It's less remote for Judge, but the possibility certainly exists. To see these players put on the pinstripes and high-five All-Stars and future Hall of Famers is something absolutely special.
Then there are some players that, to be frank, likely never see big league playing time. Even if you look at the non-roster invitees from 2015, you can see how fleeting the opportunity really is. Juan Graterol played 28 games in the minors last year. Eddy Rodriguez had seven big league plate appearances in 2012. Trent Garrison is out of baseball. I could go on.
That one plate appearance against a famous big leaguer, that one pitch with the pinstripes on--it literally may be your last. A lot of them could seriously find themselves in a Crash Davis situation, telling the young players how breathtaking it was to spend a day not necessarily in the Show, but living like you are.
Another cool moment actually came from Instagram, when Alex Rodriguez posted a picture with Dellin Betances and a bullpen catcher named Kyle Arnsberg. Arnsberg is not going to be a major league catcher. He's what we consider a "normal guy"--he's a minor league coach and bullpen catcher, but he's not going to be hanging out with Alex Rodriguez on a daily basis.
For someone like him, and for the multitude of players, coaches, and staff that will never get to roam Yankee Stadium, this is the next best thing. This is what makes spring training so amazing. While during a regular season game only the best possible talent makes it, spring training allows players like Sebastian Valle, Kyle Higashioka, and Jared Mitchell play in the same game as Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, or Jacoby Ellsbury. It's the only time when level divisions can be tossed away, at least in the first couple of weeks.
It's pretty easy to scoff at spring training games. There are a ton of pitching changes, the players are not going all-out, and your favorite players may just get a taste of play in each game. But for so many other players, like the ones I've mentioned, they are experiencing something they may never experience again. One day when they're at the end of their career, or maybe much later, they will reflect on how these moments were the highlights of their life. With that perspective, spring training should be considered the most exciting time of the baseball season. For one month, everyone has a shot at making the Show.