We've had just the most miserably cold and rainy weekend. Neel said that if you'd told him it was November instead of late April, he'd have believed you. My fingers are cold, my nose is cold. I'm cold. By Sunday, I thought I'd spend the afternoon warming up to the film photos of our trip to Clearwater Beach, FL and the Phillies' Spring Training. I'm not gonna lie. We've traveled all over the world, and this was one of our best vacations ever.
If you have even the barest interest in baseball, I can't recommend Spring Training enough. Follow a team religiously like some in this family follow the Phillies? Well, it's practically a requirement. At Spring Training, every thing is like the MLB, writ small. Ball parks are smaller and friendlier. Crowds are more manageable. Ticket prices too.
We got to Florida right at the start of the Spring Training Season, so we got to see Opening Day ceremonies for the Phillies, the Yankees and the Astros. We sat behind home plate, like directly behind home plate, for all three. Cal lined up for autographs at all three parks, and the players and coaches were approachable, friendly and happy to oblige. In town, Clearwater and Clearwater Beach, home to the Phillies, was like little Philadelphia. Dinner at local dives could have been as easily in Jersey as it was steps away from crystal-clear water and sugar sand. The crystal-clear water and sugar sand is somehow better. Florida retirees work the ballparks as ushers and ticket takers, and let me tell you, that looks like one sweet gig. Our waiter at one restaurant asked Neel if he was from Philly and proceeded to pull out his cellphone and show us pictures of the hoagie the last time he was "back home." Our neighbor Paul, in Tampa visiting family, texted that he was at the game, and we had a long chat. He lives down the street and it was the first time we'd seen him in months. I swear, it's the happiest place on earth. It's warm, so everyone is happy. It's pre-season, so everyone is happy. Hope springs eternal at Florida ballparks in March.
I'll be honest. I could have used a bit better balance between beach and ballpark, and I'll share my beach shots next week, but honestly? There's nothing like stepping on an airplane that has to be de-iced before it can take off, and getting off of said plane to sunshine, palm trees and 80º. Neel and I had a lot of time to talk while we watched Cal vie for autographs, and we decided that this was indeed the life. Our new life plan? Retire and move to Florida and work at Phillies Spring Training Games. We think we might start next year.