Trucking along

Rites of Spring? It begins with the Rides of Pre-Spring.
As new-wave as baseball has become — start with sports’ state-of-the-art website, ballpark organ music replaced by metal rock, facial hair and tattoos a must — it can still roll out quaint traditions.
None of them is as retro as the fuss made everywhere about the departure of equipment trucks to Spring Training camps. It’s trumpeted as a sure sign to the snow-bound and chilled-to-the bone that spring is on the way, never mind what Punxsutawney Phil has to say.
Some teams take the custom to bizarre heights.
For instance, the Red Sox actually preceded the trucks’ pullout with a parade, with Johnny Pesky serving as “Grand Marshal of the Red Sox Spring Training Equipment Truck Departure Parade.”
The Texas Rangers generously announced that, “all media outlets are welcome to cover the truck’s departure.” Coverage? “Frank turned the ignition key, slowly accelerated, and made a nifty left turn out of the parking lot.”

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The Phillies touted their truck getaway as a great “photo opportunity.” Bet Philadelphia paparazzi were all over that one.
BTW, ever wonder what’s in those trucks, besides the basics of balls and uniforms?
Among other contents, the Phillies’ truck included:
  • 15 cases of gum (regular and sugarless)
  • 2 cases of sunflower seeds
  • 10,000 12 oz. cups (the drinking kind)
A-ROID? A-FRAUD? How about A-Freud. With all his insecurities, Derek Jeter fixation, self-admitted thing for muscular women and obsession with how he is perceived by others, Alex Rodriguez could keep a room full of Sigmund Freuds busy for weeks. …
IRONIC aside by Gerry Fraley at Foxsports.com, alluding to the widespread steroids culture in the Texas clubhouse which Rodriguez had just joined: “If the Johnny Appleseed of steroids in baseball is ever identified, it is likely that he will have played for the Texas Rangers.”
Well, connecting some dots … Brian Downing ended his career with the Rangers in 1991-1992, the perceived dawn of the steroids era. Downing, whom I covered with the Angels in the ’80s, was absolutely one of my favorite people, a genuinely nice guy and passionate player.
But he was also known as the Incredible Hulk for bulking up following his 1978 trade from the White Sox to the Angels. Downing had totaled 26 homers in five seasons in Chicago, then had six seasons of 20-plus with the Angels. Incredible, or Inflatable, Hulk? …
WITH THE RYAN Howard settlement, the Phillies dodged arbitration hearings with all 10 of their eligible players. But peace between the clubhouse and the front office came at a steep price. The 10 resulting contracts represent a total commitment of $151,520,000, with $53,020,000 of that on the ’09 payroll. …
THE NY MEDIA has been in full Rodriguez-bashing mode, but what about the NY fans? They’re being remarkably tolerant, at least as reflected in a N.Y. Daily News poll of whether Rodriguez remains Hall of Fame worthy, in which votes are running virtually even under the three possible sentiments: (a) Yes, he’s still a dominant force; (b) No, this is the last straw; (c) Maybe, but he needs to come clean. …
Keep on … well, you know what.


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