Beware the Ides of March

It is that time of year once again…spring training.  I usually loathe spring training, with its endless repetitive schedule, long days, and hectic atmosphere but this spring promises to be at least marginally different.  This is my first spring training with the Oakland A’s after going through five with the Indians and it is already proving to be a significantly different experience.  The main difference so far is that while minor league camp officially opened Wednesday, a number of us have spent the better part of the last two weeks participating in activities across the road at the major league facility, filling the role of available-for-an-emergency warm body.  It has been an interesting time and a good opportunity to put in some face time with the staff (including my manager from Akron last season, Joel Skinner), even if our primary activity of note thus far has been sitting around the bullpen marinating in the heat.  I did manage to sneak into a game on Monday and with the paucity of scheduled games this spring (only about a dozen for us minor leaguers) it will be one of the few outings I have this spring before camp ends and rosters get set so I was happy for the opportunity to get some work in.  The position players officially report to camp this week and things will start getting a bit more chaotic around the complex, but so far so good.


In the past this would be the area where I would write about what I have been doing to occupy myself away from the field, but I have precious little to report on that front at the moment.  By the time I wrap things up at the complex, battle rush hour traffic all the way home, and attend to whatever other miscellaneous items need doing I consider myself lucky to sneak in a few pages of reading.  Anyhow, I will call that good for now with the promise to keep you updated throughout the spring, and leave you with the customary poem.


The Uniform

By Marvin Bell


Of the sleeves, I remember their weight, like wet wool,

on my arms, and the empty ends which hung past my hands.  

Of the body of the shirt, I remember the large buttons  

and larger buttonholes, which made a rack of wheels  

down my chest and could not be quickly unbuttoned.  

Of the collar, I remember its thickness without starch,

by which it lay against my clavicle without moving.  

Of my trousers, the same–heavy, bulky, slow to give  

for a leg, a crowded feeling, a molasses to walk in.  

Of my boots, I remember the brittle soles, of a material  

that had not been made love to by any natural substance,  

and the laces: ropes to make prisoners of my feet.  

Of the helmet, I remember the webbed, inner liner,  

a brittle plastic underwear on which wobbled

the crushing steel pot then strapped at the chin.  

Of the mortar, I remember the mortar plate,

heavy enough to kill by weight, which I carried by rope.  

Of the machine gun, I remember the way it fit

behind my head and across my shoulder blades  

as I carried it, or, to be precise, as it rode me.

Of tactics, I remember the likelihood of shooting

the wrong man, the weight of the rifle bolt, the difficulty  

of loading while prone, the shock of noise.

For earplugs, some used cigarette filters or toilet paper.  

I don’t hear well now, for a man of my age,

and the doctor says my ears were damaged and asks  

if I was in the Army, and of course I was but then  

a wounded eardrum wasn’t much in the scheme.

One comment

  1. contractyear

    Hi, Neil,

    I have been following your blog since you joined the A’s organization. A baseball player who reads and likes poetry, I am impressed. I hope your spring is going well. I will be at A’s spring training for 6 days starting on the 17th. I’ll look for you. I’d like to meet you.

    Check out my blog with an A’s flavor at

    I don’t just “report” on the A’s. I write in-depth articles on anything in baseball that piques my interest, including the minor leagues, and even indy ball. Check it out. (You’ll see from my picture that I was not hitting on you when I said I’d like to meet you. I’m old enough to be your grandmother!) Maybe I can do an article on you and your fellow pitchers on my blog.

    Hope to see you in Phoenix.

    Bee Hylinski
    Author: “Contract Year, A Baseball Novel,” about one pitcher’s journey from clueless to hero, to be published soon.

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