I'm proud to introduce the first Bronx Banter post by Village Voice sportswriter, Emma Span, who will be contributing twice-a-month for us this season. Dig...
By Emma Span
Spring training is a tough time for sports writers or, at least, for me. You want to talk about the games, except they're so utterly unimportant that you often overhear players asking each other who today's opponent is. And at this stage of March, every statement about a player's performance has to be qualified by either "Of course, it's still early" or "It's only spring training" or "Keep in mind he was just out there to work on his change today."
It was especially tough to find legitimate news in Port St. Lucie (home of the Mets and an awful lot of strip malls), so I was relieved to arrive in Tampa. The Mets are a pleasant, friendly, likeable group, but the juiciest news items of the week were Duaner Sanchez arriving late to work a few times and Lastings Milledge cutting his hair; I'm counting on the Yanks to liven things up a little. Plus, there were no other female reporters with the Mets, and until I got to Legends Field on Sunday - where there are several - except for the lady at the hotel desk and the girl at Wendy's, I'd barely even glimpsed another woman in a week. I've never been happier to see Suzyn Waldman.
But if the lack of real baseball news can make spring training frustrating, that relaxation is also what makes spring's odd, enjoyable little moments possible. I've been at this job for about seven months now, and I like to think I've gotten fairly blasé about the locker room scene. But when Reggie Jackson walks by eating a sandwich, nods, and says hi, I realize nope. Not quite used to it yet. A friend of mine rounded a corner last week and came face to face with Yogi Berra in a towel, an experience I'm sure, for various reasons, will prove difficult to forget.
Covering the Yankees will probably always be a little different for me because I grew up watching them though Reggie was before my time. It was all Don Mattingly then, and watching him playing (sort of) first base behind Andy Pettitte in Monday's simulated game was definitely one of the highlights of spring training thus far. [One note: the Yankees announced yesterday that Mattingly's father had just passed away, after undergoing several brain surgeries this week, and Mattingly had left to be with his family. You'd never have known what he was going through by watching him interact with the players on Monday.]
Legends Field, as some of you probably know, has a fenced-in artificial pond on one side, stocked with enormously fat ducks, geese, and a swan -- a very Steinbrennerian touch. As I walked by Sunday afternoon, maybe an hour before the Indians game, I saw Kyle Farnsworth, Brian Bruney, and Scott Proctor grab some bread from a staffer, huddle around the chain-link fence, and start feeding the birds. I'm not sure why, but that tableau completely cracked me up.
Incidentally, I'd always thought swans were supposed to be mean, but Bruney said this one was "sweet," and lonely because it had just lost its mate. See, you learn something new every day here.