Before the purpose-pitch that zips inches from the batter's head, before greenfly autograph-seekers stalk hotel lobbies, before thousands of fans stand up and boo in 50,000-seat stadiums, before the proverbial dog days of summer and the pressure-packed moments of October . . . there is sweet spring. The long hello. Baseball's early season.
The words spring training have long held special power over baseball fans. They signal the arrival of fresh air and sunshine after a long winter devoid of bare feet and box scores. The chance to see the game up close and personal, in beautiful slow motion. No other sport undergoes this slow, glorious unfolding. And no other book captures baseball's rite of passage in all its magic.
Come on a wild ride through spring training's many attractions and peculiarities, from Florida to Arizona, the National to the American League, the dugouts to Section D. Glimpse retirees in Hawaiian shirts singing ""Take Me Out to the Ball Game,"" million-dollar players taking it easy on the field and in the bars, young rookies flashing their skills, grizzled vets going through the motions, wide-eyed children dressed from head to toe in their favorite team's garb.
It's all here, from Alligator Alley to Cactus Way, sit-ups to sunblock, home runs to hangovers -- a lively tribute to America's favorite pastime in its purest, most wonderful form.