Volume 91, Issue 83

Friday, March 6, 1998

100 bottles of beer



Sour grapefruit

It seems somebody has stolen Major League Baseball's all-star ballots in Florida. It's the middle of the season right? What? It's only the preseason? Could have fooled me.

Spring training, in which clubs travel south for two months of practice beneath the warm Florida sun, has to be one of the weirdest phenomenons of professional sport. No other preseason action gets nearly as much media coverage as baseball's grapefruit league. A fan can expect piles of info each February and March on their favourite club's performance – right down to who's leading the team in tanning. This seemingly ridiculous coverage begs the question: what's there to see? It's a glorified try-out.

In a sport where over-aged babies called athletes get injured with the drop of a glove, it's odd that coaches and owners would want to spend so much time playing meaningless games when it's inevitable that a fifth of their team will endure possible season-ending injuries anyway.

But what about the injuries they could suffer down South? With all that fruit lying around, there are banana peels for players to slip on. Worse still, think about the horrible effects of sunstroke – it's not the players fault their hats aren't made big enough to cover their ego-inflated melons, to protect them from this dehabilitating injury.

Are professional baseball players really that rusty during the four-month off-season? Do you really think they sit on their keesters that whole time? Maybe the league's coaches are too slow to know what's going on and it takes them 25 games in order to judge talent.

With the incredible length of the preseason, just as there are career minor leaguers, there must be a number of career grapefruiters, who only play ball for two months each year before hanging their gloves and spikes up for the summer. With all the Bull Durhams around each spring, it only seems fair that based on the number of games played, these career fruit-ballers deserve at least some of the trappings of professional baseball.

Let's start with a mid-spring all-star game. Sure, fans will have more names to go through on the ballot and the Florida faithful probably won't know half of them, but hey, that's the fun.

With respect to season-ending awards, there will be a number of highly stringent rules in their distribution. Rookie-of-the-year awards will only be presented to first-year grapefruit leaguers and the MVP will have to have hit a minimum of .600. Both, of course, will not be allowed to make a major league opening day roster for March 31. The big show will mirror the October classic, pitting the top two clubs against each other. However, due to time constraints, two games will be played each day. Thank God for split squads.

Of course, recognition would not be complete without the pinnacle of sport, the Hall of Fame. While Cooperstown, New York is home to the MLB's Hall, the grapefruit Hall of Fame will, for obvious reasons, have to be stationed in Tampa Bay and just as the real palace of baseball greats has rules against betting on baseball, the spring games Hall will have strict guidelines on major league experience. Players will not be inducted if they even have one game at the major level, including September call-ups. Only career pre-season superstars will decorate this Hall.

It's definitely time to let the real games begin, because this much fruit is simply not healthy. By the way, Tampa Bay outfielder Brooks Kieschnick is having a great MVP season. Plus he's a got great tan to boot.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998