Musings: A Few Things That Make Baseball Great - Just a Reminder

By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author


Singles and doubles and triples and homers,
Popcorn and hotdogs and ballpark aromas,
Pitchers with fastballs that make you swing late;
These are a few things that make baseball great.
Infielders, oufielders, catchers and hitters,
Late extra innings that give you the jitters,
Batters with stances that kids emulate;
These are a few things that make baseball great.
Managers, coaches and, most of all, players,
Fans in the stands with their high fives and prayers,
Cheers when the winning run crosses home plate;
These are a few things that make baseball great.
When the rains fall, and the game’s called,
And you feel a pall.
Simply remember how great that it feels
When an umpire yells, “Play Ball!”

It is worthwhile to remind ourselves of the things that made us fall in love with baseball
in the first place, especially this week, as equipment trucks, laden with bats, balls,
uniforms, rubbing alcohol, and the countless other items baseball teams use, roll across
America’s highways on their way to Spring Training sites in Florida and Arizona. It
marks the end of the hot stove season. Thank God.

This has been the lousiest hot stove season that I can remember. Nothing, or almost
nothing, has happened. Except for a few trades, notably that in which the Marlins shipped
Gianncarlo Stanton to the Yankees in exchange for prospects and second baseman
Sterling Castro (who must be one unhappy camper; can you imagine playing in Miami
with the name Castro on your back?), there has been a dearth of baseball news to report.

The lack of activity has resulted in almost no baseball talk around water coolers, at bars,
or across backyard fences. That’s not good for baseball, its teams, its players, or its fans.

In Boston sports pages this winter the Patriots have been the Patriots, the Celtics and
Bruins have been suprisingly entertaining (and pretty darn good), and the Red Sox have
been largely missing in action. There has no news to report, save for the occasional
update that there is no news to report. The same is true in most big league cities. You
can’t blame the teams for that. The Red Sox, for example, would like to have signed a

middle-of- the-order slugger (J.D. Martinez?) way back in November, but his agent
prefers to play a waiting game.

The equipment trucks are on their way to Spring Training, pitchers and catchers will not
be far behind, followed a few days later by position players, at least those of whom are
not unsigned free agents – and there are more than a hundred in that category. Those free
agents don’t know where they’ll be reporting or, in many cases, if they’ll be reporting.
It’s uncertain enough for the elite free agents, but what about those who might be, say,
utility infiielders in their thirties, trying to catch on somewhere for one more season to
make themselves eligible for a pension? How must it be to be sitting at home waiting for
something to happen, gazing at the spectre of seeing a minor leaguer get hot and go north
with a team when it breaks camp while you’re in your kitchen studying for the real estate
agent’s exam?

Meanwhile, teams are not happy because they are unable to set their rosters and make
projections. And talk show hosts have been reduced to discussing whether or not the Red
Sox were likeable in 2017. For my money they were plenty likeable. What’s not to like
about Mookie Betts? Chris Sale? Andrew Benintendi? What they were not was
interesting. In fact, for a 93-game- winning team they were a little dull. But that’s not
something that can’t be cured by a few – strike that – by a lot of home runs.

Last year baseball witnessed the shattering of records for most home runs in a season, in
the post-season, and in the World Series. And the Red Sox were not at the party. They

finished dead last in the AmericanLeague in home runs. Homers get people talking and
they put fannies in the seats, something that’s been common knowledge for a century, or
ever since Babe Ruth became famous for swinging from the heels instead of just trying to
make contact like everyone else back then was doing?

I can’t wait for the Red Sox equipment truck to arrive in Fort Myers and for Spring
Training to begin. I can’t wait for when we can start talking about baseball again – the
game, not the business. Who is looking good at the plate? Will there be an unsung
phenom this year? How is David Price’s arm? How will Alex Cora do as the new
manager? And when, oh when, will the logjam of unsigned free agents finally break?

There’s light at the end of the tunnel,
Spring Training is not far away.
The truck is all loaded and ready,
Fort Myers, it’s heading your way.
Soon it will be in the sunshine
While we’re up here freezing, you know.
Perhaps you could do us a favor
And load up the darn thing with snow.
This winter had dragged on forever,
Enough of this frozen Fenway.

Get trucking on down to Spring Training,
We’re ready for baseball, I’d say.
Adios, bon voyage, see you later.
Make tracks, move it out, on your way.
When you come back bring sunny weather,
And be here by Opening Day.