I’m having so much fun with spring training baseball, I’m sticking with it. On Friday I watched two of the Mets’ best prospects, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario, enter an exhibition mid-way and lash hits (off a shell-shocked kid pitcher, to be sure.) They looked so confident -- the way Gary Sanchez did when he arrived with the Yankees during last season. (How nice for them.) This is the stuff of spring training. Some of them are strictly March pheenoms – who’s old enough to remember massive Clint Hartung of the New York Giants a zillion years ago? But sometimes young players are the real thing. Smith plays first base and Rosario plays shortstop. Gary Apple and Ron Darling on SNY-TV were chattering about how both were being groomed for 2018 – but maybe sooner, depending, etc. What baseball fan does not love this kind of talk? It sustains me in March. For the moment, I can even shut out the image of the blundering lout somebody elected president. Go Dominic Smith. Go Amed Rosario. Go Gary Sanchez.
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We live on a flyway, between two bays. The other morning I went outside and heard honking – hundreds of geese, flying high, moving fast, in a V formation, heading north.
These guys must know something, I thought. And sure enough, the geese were soon followed by ball games, on the radio and on the tube, from a warmer place.
Bread and circuses? It’s time for diversion – baseball, even better than the caloric Hershey Kisses being ingested by the very funny Joyce Wadler in her Sunday column in the Times. (You know whom she blames for her chocolate binge: her mom…and Trump.)
I got something healthier for you. My email from my friend Big Al said:
Yanks-Phils 1 PM on YES. Life begins anew.
Big Al is a Yankee fan. What can I say?
I found the first Mets game on the radio Friday while idling in the horrendous traffic at LaGuardia Airport. The Mets brought mostly a B squad to Fort Myers, but there was Howie Rose with his haimish accent, straight-from-the-upper-deck-at-Shea.
Howie was filling us in on the 11 Mets who will be playing in the Baseball Classic, the world-cup-for-hardball, in March, including Ty Kelly playing for Israel. (Read Hillel Kuttler’s piece: Kelly’s mom is Jewish.)
It was delightful to sit in traffic with something important to think about that did not involve mental health and ineptitude and malice – the depth of the Mets’ system that has decent players like Kelly and T.J. Rivera scrambling for spots. Rooting for underdogs is so very baseball, so very New York.
Time for a viewing of the 2017 Mets. On Saturday, my pal Gary and I sat in his living room and watched on SNY as the Mets played a home exhibition in 86-degree Port St. Lucie.
The first treat was hearing the broadcasters, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, the familiar banter and expertise.
As is only normal we heard about other preoccupations – Seton Hall basketball for Cohen, a delightful 1-year-old son for Darling, and a bad knee that may require replacement for Hernandez. The docs better make sure Hernandez can still scoop up a bunt and fire to third base.
But enough about the main act. There was also the undercard -- the 2017 Mets, a work in progress. Lucas Duda was missing because of injections into his aching hips. Jacob DeGrom was sporting a totally hideous mustache that negates his flowing hair and beatific smile. Good old David Wright, in yet another comeback, hit a fly ball and later beamed as he talked about his 1-year-old son.
Washington brought along some A-List sluggers, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy, and lifer manager Dusty Baker in the dugout, working his toothpick.
A moment of terror as the Mets’ Kevin Plawecki had his knee put into reverse in a home-plate collision, followed by at least a dozen horrifying replays and relieved applause as he hobbled off the field, (Update: x-rays negative, better than could have been imagined.)
The broadcasters did what they do best. They digressed, about the new rule that allows an automatic base on balls. Darling pronounced it “nothing.” Better they install a time clock for pitchers.
Hernandez and Darling bickered over the use of colored grease pens for cast-of-thousands exhibitions. Cohen presided with a paternal sigh.
My pal and I watched the entire three-hour marathon. The players. The manager and coaches. The broadcasters. The fans – no politics in evidence – watching the long game. Life under the flyway, enjoying the first honks of spring.
Welcome to World Cup 2022, the most absurd thing that the routinely absurd world of sports has ever produced.
Those extreme descriptions were what virtually the entire world, save for those who had walked off with bags of cash from Qatar, called the awarding of soccer’s greatest event to the incredibly tiny, incredibly wealthy country back in 2010.
Twelve years ago, many were convinced this event couldn’t possibly happen: staging the world’s biggest sporting event in a country the size of Connecticut, one with zero soccer culture and even less soccer infrastructure? The tournament couldn’t possibly take place in 120-degree heat, and FIFA, the governing body of soccer, most certainly wouldn’t upend football leagues around the world to change the traditional summer schedule, could it?
And, for God’s sake, what about the beer?
Those were just the logistical concerns. The moral concerns are far more distressing. FIFA, so busy paying lip service to equality, couldn’t possibly expect the world to embrace a country where you could go to prison for being gay, where women’s rights are severely curtailed and female victims of sexual assault could go to prison, charged with engaging in extramarital sex. And all those questions came before the global realization that the World Cup was being built on the backs of migrant labor: modern-day slaves held in Qatar with virtually no rights, low wages and no ability to leave. Migrants make up 90% of Qatar’s stated population of 3 million. The country’s native-born equal about 300,000, or roughly the size of Anaheim.
---Ann Killion, columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.