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A friend of mine who grew up in Minneapolis coined the expressive term “Jan-Febs” for the last full months of winter that can seem endless as we wait for the arrival of spring and of course the return of our baseball teams from enviable warmer climates. For most of the country and especially the Northeast February has been brutal this year. One storm after another with hardly any respite.

In my home town of New York City we had gotten off relatively easy compared to the record-breaking snows in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Yet we got our comeuppance in the last few days of February. NYC is resilient and though there are still snow banks on the streets of Manhattan and patches of ice underneath ready to thwart the unwary, things are looking up. I for one am connecting to the longer days and on Su Mar 14 Daylight Saving Time returns!

I’ve always said that bad winters make new baseball fans. For every shard of ice and ill wind, there is a compensating thought of a spring and summer breeze at the ballpark and exciting action on the diamond.

Tyler Kepner, a fine young New York Times sportswriter, had a remarkable interview today (Sun Feb 28) with Chad Moeller, who is likely to start the season as the Orioles backup catcher behind the heralded Matt Wieters. A former USC Trojan, Moeller was drafted by the Twins and was once a regular with the Milwaukee Brewers but never hit enough to stay in the lineup. He has managed to stay in or near the big leagues for 10 years with the Diamondbacks, Reds, Dodgers, Yankees and now the Orioles. He provides trenchant and frank comments on star hurlers he has caught including Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Ben Sheets, David Wells, and the possible ace-in-waiting for Baltimore Brian Matusz (I’m crossing fingers as I type!)

Moeller’s concluding thoughts about how to achieve consistency and success on the major league level are worth repeating: “You can’t tell a guy how to make that next step. That’s the hardest part because there is no blueprint. They tell you to work hard, but that’s something else that always needs to happen. It’s just figuring out what it is.”

While I am in the quoting mood, here’s something I found from the former Negro League star catcher Quincy Trouppe who had a cup of coffee in the majors in the 1950s. I ran across it while preparing my March 22nd speech on Branch Rickey’s signing of Jackie Robinson to be delivered at the University of Central Florida library in conjunction with their exhibit on the Negro Leagues, “Pride and Passion” that is running through mid-April.

It comes from Trouppe’s autobiography, TWENTY YEARS TOO SOON:
“Baseball was something like a mother, father, and best friend all rolled into one. When I felt low and disgusted with everything, it gave me a lift. When I was riding high and the wind of glory was caressing my ears, it brought me down to earth. . . . But the happiness and the sadness always blended into something that made my life more complete.”

It is thought reminiscent of what Joe Torre said when he came back to managing with the Yankees in 1996. He said he missed mainly two things: the winning and the losing. A thought to keep in mind in the aftermath of the truly great Olympic gold medal hockey game today (Feb 28) that the Canadians won in overtime, 3-2, over the surprising USA team. The momentary pain of the Americans after their gallant comeback fell just short should be replaced soon by the realization that their will to win was exemplary. And that is something we all should remember.

Ciao for now! Heading to spring training in Phoenix in 10 days and then for the first time ever also going to also travel in the same year to Florida in Orlando shortly thereafter. Don’t know when the next post will be. Perhaps in between my trips but trust me – there will be plenty to say about our greatest game and remarkable healing institution of baseball!
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