By Justin Adkins:
It’s appropriate on this February day that the weather is incredible across the Delaware Valley. The sun is shining, the temperature is unseasonably warm and even the clouds seem to be cavorting jauntily across the boundless azure sky.
OK, that’s a bit much, it’s just that it’s hard to contain the excitement level of Phillies fans today. See, it’s not really the great weather that has our steps bouncing. It’s the first official day of Phillies Spring Training, and the team is getting back to work for a 2011 season full of near-unheard of promise.
For a true baseball fan, there is really nothing better than the start of the annual rite of passage taking place in Clearwater right now. The high hopes (still miss you, Harry), the snap of the leather and the call of a seagull, even the images of palm trees swaying in a gentle gulf coast breeze, all things that instantly start to melt away the icy grip of winter and get us ready for another run at a championship.
And unlike in many Springs of the past, those hopes are higher than ever thanks primarily to the arms of the men holding court at today’s introductory press conference.
Roy Halladay. Cliff Lee. Roy Oswalt. Cole Hamels. Oh yeah, and Joe Blanton — the Horsemen made sure no one excluded him. A pitching rotation for the ages. An assemblage of talent nearly unheard of in the modern era. Not even the despised Yankees and their endless pockets could pull off what Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. managed to do.
These guys are ready to work. But before they do, the Aces (+1) had to endure the scrutiny of relentless media interest via today’s press gathering. And it wasn’t just a couple of stuffy beat writers covered in newsprint ink stains. There were representatives from most of the major news outlets, sports or otherwise. There were guys there associated with other teams but who are now hawking the Phillies. Everyone wants a piece of this story.
Only, to the players themselves, it’s a non-story. It’s clear that the attention is a barely-necessary evil serving only to distract from needed long toss. Really, it was a dry, pointless endeavor that won’t be belabored here. To the guys’ credit, they’re much more interested in working than talking about how great they are. No surprise there with this group. It’s why they’re even more likable even as they fail to provide entertaining sound bites.
No, today isn’t about press conferences or the media and their banal questions. It’s about the first step towards greatness. As Phillies fans, we’re all lucky to have a seat on the ride.
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