MLB Column: Why you should care about spring training

Boston Red Sox's Pablo Sandoval signs autographs for fans before the team's spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Every year around the beginning of February something great happens. Truck day, pitchers and catchers, and the official start of spring training. Though I’m not alone in my excitement for this time of year, every year I see plenty of complaints about baseball’s preseason. “It doesn’t count,” “It’s not the regular season,” or“Why would I care?” As a baseball fan, I believe you should care about spring training and here’s why. 

To start with, this is your first chance to see where all the money you complained about your manager spending in the off-season has gone. Sure, you’ve seen these players on other teams, but it’s your first chance to see David Price in red and white, or Zack Greinke in Arizona.

The height of excitement during the offseason comes from trades, and spring training offers your first look at all of the moves made over the winter. While we all have our opinions the moment the trades are finalized, preseason games provide an opportunity to make a more legitimate opinion on your team’s additions.

Spring training is also a perfect time to see if your returning players utilized the offseason positively or negatively. For example, Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval announced to media in the offseason that he would be coming in hot at 17 percent body fat, compared to his 23percent body fat at the start of last preseason.

The first practice of spring training revealed that Sandoval’s math might have been a little off. A spring training con for many fans is that the games don’t count and therefore are boring. Going back to my friend Sandoval, spring training allowed Boston manager John Farrell the chance to recognize that Travis Shaw deserved the starting spot over Panda.

Shaw has had 19 hits, including two home runs, and a .333 batting average this preseason, compared to Sandoval’s 10 hits and .244 batting average. Spring training games have showed Shaw clearly out performing starter Sandoval, something I would rather see happen when the games “don’t count”. Now when the time comes for games to count, the Sox have a more stable third baseman and lineup, showing that maybe spring training games do indeed count for something.

If you’re still not convinced, attend a spring training game. The Florida parks are often far from home, meaning less fans and a more personal game experience. February and March games are much more open than those in the regular season, and offer fans the opportunity to get closer, meet players, and see the game from a different perspective. Not to mention it’s an escape from the winter and a chance for non-Marlins, Rays or California fans to watch baseball amongst the palm trees.

Last but not least, it’s the unofficial return of baseball. No it’s not the regular season, but it’s as close as we can get in the remaining months of winter. Yes. Your rival games are weakened by the matchup of players who potentially won’t even make the roster. Yes. Technically the games don’t count, and the stats don’t count. It may be just an enhanced practice but it means the regular season, the start of 162 games and the race to the playoffs is right around the corner.

Among other reasons, spring training is the perfect bridge into the regular season, not as good but an excellent placeholder to get me through the end of winter and to the beginning of April. Whether you hate it or love it, spring training is over and starting Sunday night, we can all agree that we’ll be happy for baseball to officially be back.


Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mary.burkhardt@uconn.edu.