When events in our lives fall on certain dates, some might say it's fitting. For me, it is somehow fitting that the first competitive game of the 2013 season, the season of the missing outfield, fell on the day where the former outfielder making more money than all of them this season turns 50 years old. Michael Jordan got seven days of celebration from ESPN in advance of his 50th birthday. Bonilla? Seven days of new revelations about his contract, which aren't new at all but enough people are finding this out for the first time, which gives everybody an excuse to laugh all over again. (Just don't expect him to make a grand comeback to help the Mets' outfield situation, as it looks from the picture that he has turned to catching.)
All this while the other former Mets outfielder making more money than all the current outfielders this season has proclaimed that he has "re-found his swing". (And by "swing", he means "spring training fastballs" is what he found.)
But thankfully, nobody got into an argument with a television news anchor after the game, none of the players put cotton in their ears to drown out the crowd booing them, and nobody argued with an official scorer to change an error to a hit (not even Andrew Brown), as the Mets kicked off spring training the same way most other teams did, with hope and promise of a new day. The Mets' version of hope and promise came in the form of two innings from Zack Wheeler, who unlike starters Shaun Marcum and Stephen Strasburg who were merely getting warmed up and working on things while giving up wind blown bombs, Wheeler embarked on a journey to break camp with the major leaguers and needed to bring a good part of his arsenal to do it. He started the third inning by overthrowing and not being able to find the strike zone, but he threw 19 of his last 25 for strikes, and got out of the third with two strikeouts with a runner on third base. Warm? Tingly? Wheeler's two innings were exactly that.
The play that pumped me up in the Mets' 5-3 win, in this season of no outfielders, was one of the no outfielders making a play with his legs as Collin Cowgill scored from second base on an error by Micah Owings as the Nationals fell asleep a little bit. Maybe I overreacted a bit by yelling, clapping my hands and giving a little fist pump over an insurance run in a the sixth inning of a spring training game. But first off, there was an underlying celebration of actual baseball games being back in our lives for the next seven months. Baseball has a way of giving us surprises, like Jordany Valdespin driving in a run today in an at-bat that actually took the length of time needed for me to go downstairs to pick up my lunch. But spring training games also offer the familiar. The crack of the bat, the smell of freshly cut grass, the umpires yelling "play ball", Keith Hernandez making obscure Charlie Weaver references, and Lucas Duda looking at fastballs down the middle while swinging at slop three feet outside. Like the Florida palm trees, the familiar storylines of baseball are reborn once again. Reason enough to clap and pump your fist. (Well, for everything except the Duda part.)
Second, there was a not so underlying celebration of the fact that while Collin Cowgill might not be the most awe inspiring free agent pick-up in the world, he's not 42 years old and he has the use of all his limbs … something you couldn't always say about a middle of the road Mets acquisition. I grant you that I thought Andres Torres would be halfway decent too, and his calf exploded on Opening Day. So what the hell do I know? Maybe I was merely celebrating the fact that Cowgill made a play with his legs and didn't come up lame.
So happy baseball day kids. And happy belated birthday, Bobby Bo.