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April 3, 2012

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Spring Training Diary: Last Entry

by Jason Parks

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6:00 AM

I’m up early, Patricia, but I have nowhere to go. It’s an empty feeling, like spending a decade in school only to serve coffee or write positive articles about the Chicago White Sox system. Everything feels false: yesterday was my final day at the fields. I watched around 75 games over the past five weeks, ranging from amateur to pro, in the vacant environments of the backfields to the packed houses under the bright lights. I already miss it more than words by Extreme. Oh, my Dear, give me the strength to face the realities of the world without baseball in my bloodstream. I’m flying back to New York City in a few hours. This can’t be happening. The music for the mood is Feel Flows by the Beach Boys. Shadows supplied by the words:

Unfolding enveloping missiles of soul
Recall senses sadly
Mirage like soft blue like lanterns below
To light the way gladly
Whether whistling heaven's clouds disappear
Where the wind withers memory
Whether whiteness whisks soft shadows away
Feel flows (White hot glistening shadowy flows)
Feel goes (Black hot glistening shadowy flows”

I’m petulant at the moment, with recognition and awareness but no apology. I’m sad. I get this way when things that I love sink back into the ground while I sit idly by and wait for them to sprout up. I’m waiting for a ghost to arrive and reset the clock. Please tell me it’s early March and not early April. It’s important to want the month to be March. It’s the month where baseball life erupts into full view. It’s a cyclical creation; in the spring, baseball is reborn and I’m in the room with an unobstructed view of the process. It’s beautiful, like the moment you first touch the hand of a new love, so awkward yet so deep and full of meaning and consequence. It makes everything else seem insignificant and distant, and it captures all your thoughts subsequent to the event. It’s a gas, Kitten.

Sorry that I called you Kitten. I thought about calling you something else, but I didn’t think hard enough because I was too busy thinking of my present sadness, failing to appreciate the amazing adventures I’ve participated in since the dawn of my journey back in late February. I’ve teased you with a few, Patricia, but I’ve kept some of the tastiest meat for my own mouth. It’s a selfish move, but people are intrinsically selfish, and I’ve come to accept this at this stage of the game. Your best friend would cut your throat to star on the Bachelor. It’s just a fact. I went to school with one of the Bachelors. I saw his face on a tabloid. Our culture has become shallow and glossy like pop-culture magazine pages, and we acquiesce to the very charms that bring us down. I’m pretty sure this diary is helping that cause, Patricia.

I miss you dearly. If I owned a chalet in the Swiss Alps, I’d hold you close as we ingested the beautiful surroundings like opiates. The people in this US Weekly have probably experienced that level of environmentally-aided romance. Most of us think a few kind words and a bottle of wine are enough to sweep away the spirits of a partner. As long as the Switzerland dream exists, words and wine will never be enough. Don’t let it fool you, Patricia. Keep your dreams small and you will be better served. Not every face is meant to be kissed by a prettier face, and not every Venezuelan shortstop is going to be Omar Vizquel.

When thinking of the good times, the fond memories flow. The hundreds of swings I saw Dominican bonus babies Ronald Guzman and Nomar Mazara take; the experience of being at the majority of Yu Darvish’s appearances; watching Darvish’s last start on an iPhone at a restaurant, as Rangers closer Joe Nathan watched-on from my immediate left, breaking down Darvish’s arsenal and boasting about the Japanese ace’s work ethic while eating a bowl of pasta; watching Bubba Starling step into the box for his first ever spring training backfield game; getting to watch the aforementioned at-bat with good friend Kevin Goldstein, as he stood to my 9 o’clock wearing a fedora and fighting off sun stroke; the French fries at the In-N-Out; getting to spend quality time around people with industry titles like “Special Assistant to the General Manager,” whose words of wisdom strike with the force of a 1000 armies; over a two-day span, I learned more about player projection than I had learned in the previous two years, and I’ve learned a lot about player projection over the last two years; getting to watch all the exciting prospects in the Royals system (in addition to Starling), some of which will find the light in a scouting article I’ve yet to write; Francisco Lindor agreed to be my one and only; getting to host a Baseball Prospectus party at my spring training home, which turned into an ad hoc FIFA tournament, complete with brackets and prizes. (..And here I thought the numbers dorks were the only dorks at the party.)

Speaking of awkward statistical analysis wizards, Voros McCracken ended up winning the FIFA tournament, besting the likes of Kevin Goldstein, Jorge Arangure, and Jason Cole [Roommate Jason] for the title. He did so with ruthless skill and grace. I have to say, it’s a strange world when in one room you have Yahoo’s Jeff Passan playing video games while wearing white sport socks and casual shorts, Jay Jaffe’s mustache holding court on the outdoor deck, articulately recounting the day’s events, and assorted writers, industry names, and fans of the game lining the path in between the two. It was a very cool party and Baseball Prospectus Wizard in Command Joe Hamrahi deserves all the props for not only making that happen, but also pushing the BP brand to another level. I should jump ship before the ship gets too big and luxurious.  I’m not one to enjoy things, Patricia. I should have included our blossoming affair on the list of fond memories. I do hope blossoming is the correct word. I would hate to hear that you prefer the word “fledgling.” I think our relationship is showing buds.

As sad as I am to leave the baseball and the blossoming behind, I’m triumphant in my escape from the state of Arizona, specifically the greater Phoenix area. Upon arriving home the other day, Roommate Jason and I discovered the following note on our front door, which I think sums up greater Phoenix better than the poetry I attempt to craft:

 

March 26, 2012

Hi Neighbors!

My name is Becky, I live on [redacted] and I want to warn you of a problem that unfortunately we have here in our neighborhood!

My dog was drugged sometime Sunday night/Monday morning!! This has been confirmed by my vet! As bad this is {sic}, thankfully he was drugged and not poisoned but it was still a close call! The police are aware, a report has been filed.

I just want to let you all know to be aware – someone is throwing something laced with drugs over the fence! PLEASE watch your animals, especially those who have doggy doors and can go in and out when they want (like mine!)!

I really thought our neighborhood was a safe place but for whatever reason, someone is out to hurt our pets!

I pray no one else has to go thru what I did this morning – my dog is alive but that’s a scare no one should have to go thru!!

First of all, I count 12 exclamation points executed in this note, which is about 12 too many. Becky means business. Secondly, if the described animal cruelty did in fact occur, it should come as no surprise to anybody in the neighborhood, even naïve Becky, who thought a lower income neighborhood in the West Valley of Phoenix would be a utopian existence where neighbors smile and refuse to drug animals and exclamation points are used in every sentence and random notes left on the doors of strangers warm the heart and bring guilty people to justice. It takes a village, Becky. Unfortunately, you decided to live in a village where it takes a better village.

Based on the behavior I’ve seen in the neighborhood, lacing something and throwing it over the fence for the purpose of drugging a dog is definitely within the brackets of reality; although it seems like it would take more effort and energy than the average person in the neighborhood is used to expending. My money is on the family with three Pontiacs on-site, two of which haven’t moved in a month, the other, a turquoise mid-90s number, doesn’t move often. The garage door is always open, as I believe it’s used as an adult fort, where methamphetamines can be consumed in the peace and quiet of an Incubus CD, a cloud of cigarette smoke, and the dreams that their great-grandchildren will have ten digits on the hands and ten on the feet.

I think the owner of the Pontiac that moved was named Dewayne. As you might have guessed, Dewayne has a goatee and a quick temper. If I were eight-years-old, I’d roll a ball into his garage and dare my friends to gamble with their lives in order to fetch it. I wanted to followup Becky’s neighborhood note with a note that listed the odds of guilt among the neighborhood elite. Dewayne would be the clear frontrunner. I’d use 13 exclamation points just to prove to Becky that I mean even more business than she means. I’d also remind Becky that her dog probably just tried to kill itself to escape the neighborhood. I saw a dog walking with a noose in its mouth the other day. That might have been Becky’s dog. Sometimes it’s best just to let things happen, Becky. Don’t you think, Patricia?

10:00 AM

I’m about to leave for the airport, so I need to wrap this up. It’s been a privilege to tether my thoughts to your heart, and vice-versa, if applicable. I’m not a crazy man, Patricia; rather, I just like to think and I like to be open with the things that I think and I lose thoughts with the way that I think. It’s a different bag of tea, but it’s still just a bag of tea. Over the last five weeks I’ve rediscovered my soul, and that soul can be found inside a baseball, placed in a bucket on the backfields of a spring training complex. I’m growing as a scout, which probably shrinks me as a writer, which narrows my career arc but keeps me warm at night.

Speaking of which, I think it’s time we took the next step. If I asked you to be my regular diary would you say yes? I’ll ask again at another time. I know it’s probably too soon. Everything that happens is too soon for somebody. Just know that I care, even if I say I don’t, which I probably won’t do, because I actually care. If this diary escapes my hands, I hope the readers know that I care. I really care for you. I’ll leave you with this before I go, something I’ve been thinking about since our first exchange: The object of your affection doesn’t have to appear real in the eyes of outsiders in order for that affection to be real. Take it easy, Patricia. Thanks for listening to me.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Yu Darvish,  Spring Training Diary,  Patricia

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