GOODYEAR, Ariz. – A manager’s dream. “I’m enjoying seeing those guys,” said Bruce Bochy. So are the rest of us. Not just the Giants, who Sunday out here on the desert among the scrub vegetation and abandoned jet planes, won another game.
Also the fans, few as showed up at Goodyear ballpark, seemingly halfway to California, which the Reds and Indians share each spring. It’s their time in the sun — and, yes, the sun was bright, if the temperature, 65, wasn’t that warm.
It’s the time, managers, ball players, fans. It’s our time. After a cold, wet, dark winter, no less significantly, it’s baseball’s time.
Spring training. Two of the best words in the English language.
Spring training, days at the ballparks, Scottsdale, Mesa for the Athletics, and many others scattered in the Valley of the Sun; nights at Don & Charlie’s, where the historic memorabilia — yes, that’s a Babe Ruth autographed ball in the entranceway — is as appealing as the barbecued ribs.
Three games so far in this Cactus League for San Francisco. Three wins, including the 9-5 victory over Cincy. Unbeaten. Bochy laughed. “It’s about getting them ready,” was his comment.
He meant athletes, so many of whom not only we’ve never seen, but he’s never seen. Then after a game in which Joe Panik, Conor Gillaspie and Jarrett Parker homered, the manager did concede, “Sure it’s nice, a better feeling to walk off the field with a W.”
As so far, against the Reds at Scottsdale, then the Cubs at Scottsdale and again the Reds at Goodyear, where most of the tiny crowd of 4,348 was cheering for the Giants — hey, it’s, only 750 miles from the Bay Area, drivable; 1,800 from Cincinnati — the Giants have had that feeling
“What I’m enjoying is a chance to see some of these guys,” Bochy said. Rookie Steven Duggar raced full speed to grab a ball fly against great center field fence in the ninth. “Great catch,” was the Bochy observation, and it was, if so late in the game almost an afterthought — unless you’re trying to assess talent.
“It’s tough getting in these young guys,” Bochy reminded about a team that except for an outfield spot or a backup infield role, has virtually no open lineup places. “Trying to win a job on this club is going to be tough. We have some good players, and it’s good to see them first hand.”
Matt Moore is not so young, 27. He started, went 1¹⁄³ innings and gave up a walk, a hit and a run. It was his first game since that fateful night last October when he left with a 5-2 lead after eight innings in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cubs — and the bullpen collapsed, Chicago winning, 6-5.
“It was just a special time for the Cubs,” said Moore. Chicago, of course, went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1908. “We all showed up. It’s just the way things go sometimes.”
The Giants signed Mark Melancon for $62 million to make sure things won’t go that way ever again. Saturday, Melancon pitched a perfect inning against the Cubs.
“It doesn’t matter what I do right now,” said Melancon. That’s debatable. We understand the games don’t mean anything, with players basically trying to get ready for the real season, the long season, April to they hope November.
Still, there’s the heavy memory which must be overcome.
Spring training around the Giants is a time to prepare for the future and to forget the painful past.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.