An Ode to Spring Training
Blue skies and sunscreen and the cracking of bats
Autograph hounds, the breaking in of new hats
Pop-pop-popping of gloves and smiles for days
Wide-eyed rookies learn to follow the veterans’ ways
Hope-filled dreams and predictions for the season to come
And I’m stuck in Missouri where the weather is no fun.
Years ago, I used to take blue painter’s tape and soft beginner’s baseballs to the YMCA. I’d outline a mock strike zone on the wall of a racquetball and work on my slider and knuckle-curve just for fun. I’d stop throwing when my t-shirt and hat were thoroughly soaked.
Julie agreed to let me use a racquetball court for today’s catch with Jill. Jill is the Vice President of Communications at the United Way of the Ozarks. She’s using her Mizzou journalism degree to help others break out of the cycle of poverty.
“I love seeing the impact this organization makes.”
Her brother grew up playing ball and her nephew currently plays for Kickapoo.
“I’m a sports fan, although I never played ball. I was a cheerleader, so I cheered at all the games. It was great.”
Jill is also a St. Louis Cardinals fan, “Ozzie and Yadi and Ankiel.”
“His book was fantastic. Overcoming obstacles and finding a new way to achieve his dream. Holding on to hope and not giving up.”
After throwing 5 wild pitches in 2000 NLDS Game 1, Ankiel developed the yips. He spent hours throwing a ball against a wall behind his house in hopes of finding his old form. At his agent’s request, he then converted to an outfielder where he discovered he could throw strikes from 300 feet away. He played for both Missouri teams.
Ankiel’s story sounds a lot like Jill’s work at the United Way, helping people not give up when life throws a curveball.
Rainy days are better in February anyway, preparing the way for picture perfect spring and summer days at the ballpark.