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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Enough Spring Training!
by Hal Vickery

It’s the last week of spring training and games that mean something can’t get here soon enough!  I can’t speak for the players, but for the fans the last couple of weeks of spring training are something akin to Chinese water torture.  It seems as though it will never end.   

As we struggle to maintain our sanity for one last week, here are more random thoughts. 

   We drove to Bridgeport the other day and took a look at the renovations at The Cell.  Speaking of never coming to an end, it looked as if there is still a lot to be done by the Sox home opener on April 13.  The new renovations change the entire look of the ball park from the outside.   

No longer does the upper deck tower over everything.  It is more in scale with old Comiskey Park.  When we drove by, the lights were on.  I think that’s where the longing for real baseball and an end to meaningless games first struck. 

There is no feeling quite like the one you get when you walk into a ball park.  Your senses are assaulted.  There are the scorecard vendors shouting and the crowd pushing against you from all sides as you funnel past the vendors on their way to the escalator. 

After that there are the aromas of the steaks grilling, or the brats, or the hot dogs.  Then you see it:  the expanse of green ahead of you interrupted by the brown infield dirt.  It’s still the most beautiful sight I can imagine. 

Then you hear the crack of a bat coming from a player in the batting cage and maybe the sound of the ball rattling off the outfield seats.   

All we have to do is hold out for one more week. 

   After watching Ozzie Guillen the past six weeks, can any Sox fan help but be optimistic?  The players seem to be having more fun than they have since spring of 2000.  In those days the talk was that the Sox players hung out together and genuinely liked each other.   

Then all of that seemed to fall apart.  The talk was that the clubhouse was split into cliques.  Some of the sniping made it into the media.  That all seems to have changed in just a few short weeks under the new leader. 

One thing I haven’t heard this spring that we would have without the change in managers:  if the change hadn’t been made, we’d be hearing fans rejoicing, “At least we only start with two games against the Royals.  They can’t get a three-game sweep on us like they did last year.” 

   I am officially going on the record for the third consecutive year as saying that this will be Jon Garland’s breakout season.  That being said, I actually have a feeling it will come to pass this year.  The reason for my optimism again is the change in managers. 

Under the previous regime Garland wasn’t given a chance to pitch out of a jam.  Gen. Disarray would go to the bullpen in the fifth or sixth inning if he so much as walked a batter.  One can only imagine the damage that did to his confidence.   

Still, under the tutelage of Don Cooper, it was obvious that Garland’s attitude was changing.  Instead of trying to avoid mistakes as he did under Nardi Contreras, Garland became more aggressive, making the batters go after his pitch. 

This new aggressiveness carried over into his overall attitude.  Who can forget Garland’s rage in that game where Gen. Disarray pulled him out in the sixth inning with a big lead after he gave up a walk?  Garland wanted to win or lose the game on his own, and the general wouldn’t give him the opportunity.  

Ozzie Guillen will not pull the same boneheaded moves in dealing with Garland.  Watch for Garland to respond with a big year. 

   WSI’s George Bova was featured in last Friday’s Red Eye in an article by Maegen Carberry in which he and Cubs fan Jerry Pritikin (aka “Bleacher Preacher”) gave their top ten reasons for rooting for their club.  I’ve included a couple of points by each person.  You be the judge as to which fans are more intelligent. 

From George Bova: 

• "True baseball traditions are grounded in what Bill Veeck and Harry Caray created on the South Side -- not the North Side."

• "White Sox fans actually know their team's history. Cubs fans have just bought into the myth that the Tribune and WGN have created that Chicago's baseball traditions are associated with the Cubs." 

From the “Bleacher Preacher”: 

• "The Ivy and the scoreboard with a 'W' and 'Cubs WIN! Cubs WIN!' flashing on it."

• "Batting practice and cheers like 'Right field sucks! Left field sucks!'" 

We rest our case.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

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