From the last out of the World Series in October through the freezing cold, snowstorms, and bleakness of winter (even if you live in Southern California, it can still be bleak...), there is an emptiness that football and basketball can only dance on the edges to try and fill. But when pitchers and catchers report to their respective teams in Arizona and Florida for Spring Training, it's more telling than even Punxsutawney Phil for shining a light on the end of winter.
The full teams won't arrive for another couple weeks with position players, and Spring Training games won't begin until March, but none of that is much matter. When the pitchers and catchers show up early to start getting in shape, we know that Opening Day is around the corner. And more importantly, we can start following baseball coverage in full.
February 19 isn't reporting day for all teams, but this year it's the marker for 13 of them, and one is the beloved Chicago Cubs, so that's pretty much all that counts on these pages.
By the way, the phrase in the title above might sound familiar to some of you, on the tip of your tongue, but just not quite able to place it. But a more limited few will recognize it from a speech given by the Shoeless Joe Jackson character in the movie, Field of Dreams, after his spirit returns to the ball field in Iowa. It comes after Ray Kinsella says to him, "It must be good to be playing again, hunh?" -- about having been banned from the game 70 years earlier. The ghostly spirit answers --
"Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet. The thrill of the grass."
But -- that's not actually where it's from.
Field of Dreams is based on the novel, Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. When Phil Robinson adapted the screenplay (he also directed the film), he threw the phrase in as an homage.to another book by Kinsella, a wonderful collection of short stories about baseball called...The Thrill of the Grass.