Rain Delay Book Club

IMG_2968It is now 11 days of rain and counting. I love baseball and I’m no fair weather fan. I also take public transit to the park and read en route. In the ten plus years I’ve been a frequent attendee at Washington Nationals games, there have been many rain delays. After all, this IS Washington. Fortunately, the team is on the road so this week’s ceaseless slosh hasn’t affected my viewing. But I do like to have a Plan B.

So what’s a book-loving baseball fan to do? Find other readers who are waiting for the game to resume! It’s a much better option than trying to get a signal so you can peer at weather radar for an hour.

Are you in? Doesn’t require much. Post on Facebook or Twitter or even Instagram. Tag it #RainDelayBookClub and include the title of your book. Share your location if you wish, after all, you are already squashed up close and personal with 20,000 or more strangers. Here’s a chance to meet some kindred spirits. And you can join in whether you are at the park or not, or even at Wrigley or Fenway or Pac Bell.

For my part, I’ll pick a title or two each month of the season (hopefully, through October) and share it here and on Facebook. If you have suggestions, bring ’em on. And I’ll be happy to meet up with you at Nats Park and ask you, “So what are you reading?”

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May titles:  Fiction – Circling the Sun by Paula McLain; Nonfiction – Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman

A Fond Farewell to the Space Coast

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This was our seventh and final visit to Nationals Spring Training in Viera, Florida.  While we hope to continue the Spring Training tradition for many years to come, the Washington Nationals will be moving next year to a new home in West Palm Beach.

Space Coast Stadium has been a wonderful place to get ready for baseball and allow my toes to breathe after a cold and snowy winter.  Everyone at the park is friendly and we greet some of the staff and fellow fans as old friends, expecting to always find each other in the same place when we return. And there were the local restaurants and their owners we visited each year. The departure will be an economic hit on the area and will make for a much quieter season. While the new ballpark complex will be fabulous with all the latest amenities and quick access to many more teams, I will miss the relaxed pace and smaller town feel of the old park.

There is a great sense of pride to the Space Coast. This is the stretch of Florida where NASA has had its greatest achievements and failures. The stadium has at each foul pole huge pillars memorializing the Challenger and Columbia shuttles, tragedies that will forever mark the region and nation. And a trip to Cape Canaveral, just an hour away, is a visit through space history super-sized, as is everything associated with the space program.IMG_0132 IMG_0008

 

 

 

And then there’s the baseball. In the spring it really isn’t about the score. How is the team looking?  Who are those new faces? Will some of my old favorites finally be pushed out by some young player, fighting for his place in the big leagues? Spring is a time for wild aspirations and the recognition that for some the best days have passed.

Who have I watched in particular? Well, Ryan Zimmerman IMG_2245(Spring, 2010) and Ian Desmond were stalwarts.  While I knew Ian was gone, it was strange not to see him on the field. Stephen Strasburg’s very first pitching appearance as a National. And we had tickets – our first day ever at Spring Training! But a dumb cluck luggage cart driver at DCA disabled our plane and we were 5 hours and 5 innings late. And just missed his first trip to the mound.

 

We saw Pudge Rodriguez IMG_3577(Spring, 2011) teaching the young players from the top step of the dugout as his career on the field was coming to an end.

 

 

And we’ve watched Bryce Harper mature in every way possible. (Spring, 2011-13)IMG_3593

 

 

 

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(Below Spring, 2014-16)

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And I’ve taken it in up close and personal, right behind the netting each and every year.

Going forward, I think the sounds and feel of Viera will still remain a part of my Spring Training, regardless of the Nationals’ home. It’s like your first elementary school classroom – it’s the place where the magic began.

Turning in my snow boots for sunscreen

IMG_0005It’s been some kind of winter when Alaska has had less snow than many of the northeastern states and only Florida and Hawaii haven’t really experienced the brutality of the winter. In our house, the first sign of spring is a trip to Viera, FL to see the Washington Nationals in spring training. There is something about ratcheting back the daily grind a few notches, sitting in the stands looking at a wide expanse of green, watching first-timers and veterans alike getting ready for a season full of promise. It’s the big leagues in very neighborly parks where the players are just inches from the fans and the wise cracks shouted from the stands can be heard on the pitcher’s mound.

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The laid-back attitude carries over to the entire trip. When I travel to new places there is always somewhere else I want to go – another museum, a walking tour, a historic district to explore. Not during spring training. I’ll take the short walk to the local Starbucks or, if I am energetic, walk the 3 miles to Space Coast Stadium.  Maybe I’ll spend some time with my face pressed up against the fence watching a pitching prospect or see batting practice and warm ups from the stands. There’s a camaraderie at the park with most people either playing hooky from their regular routine or enjoying their retirement. Traffic jams in and out of the park last about 5 minutes and many rain showers are not much longer.

By the end of the day, I’ll have had my fill of sunshine.  All that time relaxing at the park is tiring. An early dinner, some reading or TV and I’m usually ready to call it a night. We are very fortunate to have friends to spend time with during spring training. And each year more fans from the DC area head down, drawn by good weather and good baseball – certainly a winning combination.  So if you are at the park next weekend, please look for me.  I’ll be in the stands and I may be wearing my gnome hat.  Go Nats!

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