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Spring training - A Cactus League game between...

Spring training – A Cactus League game between the Cubs and the White Sox at HoHoKam Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spending the last few days running the trusty Honda snow thrower, and cleaning up with the snow shovel, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m ready for those wonderful four words: Pitchers and catchers report.

Yep, and that will happen very soon—February 19, to be exact. And a few days later, the rest of the position players will be in full workout mode in the sun of Arizona.

As a youngster, I would forget about my White Sox during the winter months. Not because I didn’t care about them, but because I was too caught up in Indiana high school basketball and following my favorite Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League.

Then, as February got going during those years, I began to see small stories on the sports pages and perhaps a brief mention every now and then on the evening TV sports that Major League spring training camps would be opening pretty soon. I would begin to think about those wonderful spring days ahead, and winter wouldn’t seem so long!

Spring training in those days always seemed so very far away. Sarasota, where the White Sox trained and played their spring games at Payne Park, was way down in Florida, as were most other teams’ camps, but I had no idea about what the fields or facilities looked like. It wasn’t Comiskey Park on Chicago’s South Side, that’s all I knew.

Having never been to Florida, or anywhere else in the South for that matter, I was quite unfamiliar with the lay of the land, other than it must be vastly different from my home in Huntington, Indiana. Places like Pompano, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa, Bradenton, and Vero Beach sounded like sunny villages far, far away. And, I guess, to a young boy of 11, they probably were!

In my mind, I tried to picture and imagine what these remote, out-of-the-way Florida outposts looked like. Were there palm trees in the outfield? Were there orange groves all around? What did the players do when they weren’t working out or practicing? Oh, so many youthful questions!

Of course, today it’s pretty obvious that the players and coaches and managers report to training camp ready to get another season started. The players, for the most part, are well conditioned and in playing shape right away. Not so in the days of my youth when I’d hear and read stories about players checking in overweight and in need of a few weeks of running and a strict regimen of exercise and a diet more conducive for getting in shape. It must have been pretty interesting to see those players arrive at spring training camp and hit the field for the first time to begin the arduous process of grinding into condition under the hot, Florida sun.

Just thinking about some of my youthful imaginings of White Sox spring training all these years later, has me chomping at the bit for the next couple of weeks to fly by and have all players happily in camp and diligently taking the first steps to becoming a pretty good team in 2015.

The White Sox haven’t been in Sarasota for several years, but I’m pretty sure the Arizona sunshine has done just as well during the weeks of spring training as they did all those years ago. And just as it was about this time way back when, I’m getting excited for the return of the White Sox! What winter chill?

See you at the ballpark!

Spring Training, Vero Beach, Florida, 1994, by...

Spring Training, Vero Beach, Florida, 1994, by Rick Dikeman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)