Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SMALLS TALK: It's Not Always Sunny in Arizona

After almost two weeks of perfect baseball weather, the Arizona skies finally showed their mortality today. Dark clouds, violent winds, heavy rain- all that was missing was a dog named Toto. The result? A much needed day off. But it wasn't a guarantee. Nope, we had to sweat this one out.

After looking at the forecast last night, we all walked into the clubhouse this morning prepared for a rain-out. Kids who had visitors in town told them not to bother coming to the field; other guys were looking up early matinee movie times, and some even looked as though they hadn't even bothered fully waking up- perhaps prepared to go back to bed immediately after notice of a wash out. We were ready for the rain-out. Mother Nature, on the other hand, was not.

We sat around the locker room in our street clothes waiting for rain that just would not come. After a good half hour, we looked around at each other with uncertainty- the time had finally come for us to get ready to head out to the field. We all tentatively threw on our uniforms, most of us wearing long sleeves for the first time since arriving. This was just a formality, we thought. The second we go outside, it's gonna start pouring. It's almost funny that we're even bothering to put our uniforms on. It was so dark and windy, all signs pointed to torrential downpour. No way would we play baseball today. Right?

We were all positive we would get rained out, reassuring each other of the rain's inevitability as we got dressed. But still, none of us were that positive. After all, despite the cold darkness and high speed winds, it wasn't actually raining. I mean wind is no fun, but we weren't looking at a possible "wind-out" here. If we wanted a day off, we needed rain.

We kept one eye on Weather.com and one eye on the clock as the start time of practice approached. Every now and then someone would go take a peek outside and come back, disappointed by the lack of precipitation- or even worse, joke about how heavy the rainfall was and get our hopes up, only to be let down as we scurried to the door to double check.

All of a sudden, time was up. I couldn't believe it. It was time to go out to the field, and not a drop of rain had fallen. This practice was actually going to happen.

And it's not that I didn't want to practice today, or that I didn't like baseball, that's not it at all. I simply got caught up in the rain-out hype. Had no one mentioned rain, everything would have taken place as usual. We'd head out to the field, go through a whole practice, and not one person would complain. But today was different. We weren't supposed to practice.

When you hear talk of a rain-out, you start focusing on how sore you are, how much sleep you need, and how much you would love that day off. Baseball's a grind, there's no denying it. You play everyday, and you don't think about how sore you are because you're too busy playing the game. But the second you hear a teammate say "Today's gonna get washed out" with more confidence than Al Roker, you start imagining a day off- you start to want it, need it.

It's almost as if we looked at the forecast and felt entitled to an off-day. That's right, God doesn't want us to play baseball today- so why are we here?

As we headed out to the fields, the rain had far from fulfilled Weather.com's promise. Excessive wind? Check. Dark clouds? Check. All that was left was the rain. But the rain was king. The other two are just for emphasis- meaningless without it.

And as we began orientation, the king was nowhere in sight. We then ran out to the outfield to stretch- no rain. We started our dynamic warm up- nothing fell from the sky.

But then, as we began our throwing program, I felt that first drop. "Here it comes," I thought, as I looked at the moisture on my arm. We were almost there. 

The rain, as well as our team's collective excitement, picked up as we continued to throw, but then the worst possible thing happened- it plateaued. The precipitation stopped increasing, and simply stayed the same. It wasn't enough to call off practice and go running to the clubhouse, but it was just enough to make you feel ten degrees colder and make gripping a bat or a ball nearly impossible. It was finally raining, but it wasn't enough. At this level, we could have practice, and it was bound to be a miserable one.

As we finished up our throwing program, the situation got even worse. As the rain began to slow down, I looked up at the sky to see the sun poke its head out. That was it? That was the rain? You gotta be kidding me. After convincing ourselves all morning that today would be an off day, practice looked like it would take place as scheduled.

But wait. It grew dark again. Could it be? The skies opened up and within five seconds, I was soaked. I was never so happy to be caught in a storm. The manager called us into the dugout for a quick goodbye, we hurriedly packed up our stuff, and raced to the shelter of the clubhouse.

I changed into dry clothes, took some swings in the indoor cages, got my lift in, and was back at the hotel by noon. Not the ideal rain-out, but a welcome one.

I love the game of baseball and I'm lucky I get to play it on a daily basis. But it's a grind; it wears you down both physically and mentally every single day. Sometimes, as Crash Davis can attest to, you just need a rain-out.

Tee Work
Helmet for Pitchers?
Approaching Spring Training
Top 5 Things I Won't Miss About My Local Gym
Getting New Equipment
Last Day at Work
My Bat of Choice
The Superstitions and Quirks of a Ballplayer
The Art of the Autograph
Greensboro's 'Bat Dogs'
Tim Kurkjian is a Man Among Boys
Baseball Movie All-Star Game: Starting Lineups
Walk-Out Music
Pre-Draft Medical Questionnaires
The Ryan Howard Namesake
The Magic of the Rally
Jeter and A-Rod, How Times Have Changed
Summer Leagues - Cape Still Cream of the Crop?
SportsCenter Commercials are Better Than Most Shows
Schilling's Bloody Sock
Red Sox Nation Goes Crazy, JD Drew Can't Be Bothered
Minor League Hats are the Way to Go
Who Has the Best Uniforms in College Baseball?


  1. As a high school baseball coach, there is nothing worse when all day long you are prepping for that rain, like you said making other plans, getting excited and it doesn't come. Then you come to terms with it the team gets ready, and its only raining enough to piss you off. The game starts you get out to a lead in the miserable weather, then a half inning before its an official game it opens up and you have to sit in the dugout to wait it out, until finally it gets called and you have just wasted more time than a full game only to have to do it over again. But that's what we get to deal with in spring and early summer baseball in Nebraska. Its like seeing a hot stripper up on stage and getting excited to see it all only to have a d fall out.

  2. Props for the Bull Durham reference.


  3. Hilarious and accurate! I need to write a post about rainouts from my point of view.

  4. Excellent post! As much as I love to play, getting that rain out is so fun! Finally get to spend time at home with your loved ones. Great writing!