Aside from Opening Day, the start of spring training could very well be the greatest day in a fan's life. Some might even admit that they look forward more to spring training than the birth of their child. When it comes to a player's point-of-view, spring training is the beginning of the longest month of their lives. This may not always be the case, but coming from a former Rockies minor leaguer having made the drive to Tucson several times, it was pretty dreadful.
You may be thinking "people would kill to be playing professional baseball," and you're right. Playing baseball for a "living" ($8000 a year is hardly considered a living in today's society) is really a dream come true, but I am almost certain we have all complained about something that truly isn't that bad.
Minor league spring training (Little League Camp) cannot be compared to big league camp. For example, when you first arrive, you are given some Rockies gear comparable to the P.E. gear you wore in junior high school. The morning announcements (every morning) take about an hour and accomplish nothing. You crowd around in a circle full of gaseous men, sitting on wet grass, and just when you think you've been freed of these irritating conditions, the Spanish translation begins. Although the Latins generally speak much faster than Americans, the translation always seems to take twice as long.
All things petty aside, little league spring training takes you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. What starts out as excitement and a ton of "bro hugs" (half hand-shake, half hug), quickly turns into fear and speculation. Everyone plays the GM game. Everyone is pretty bad at the GM game.
The GM game: Shagging BP
Guy #1: "Damn man, I can feel it. I'm gonna get axed."
Guy #2: "Oh no bro, you're not getting released. I got you slotted in the Tulsa bullpen. I'm the one that should worry."
Guy #1: "You think so man? I have you going to Tulsa too. Want to room together?"
Guy #2: "Yeah dude for sure. Make sure you do some hand signals so it looks like we're talking about pitching though. I think they're watching us."
Guy #1: "Good idea, let's spread out so we don't get yelled at."
When it comes to the baseball aspect of spring training, Little League Camp fits the nickname pretty closely. The drills are high in volume and very fundamental. At times, the instruction is so basic, you might think you were at a junior varsity try out. It isn't until June or July when you botch a routine play that you begin to think maybe those drills aren't so meaningless.
The light at the end of the tunnel usually comes about a week before camp is scheduled to break. You are broken up into your respective teams, and coaches become more team-oriented in their approach. All you have to do at this point is stay healthy and out of trouble. When the travel itineraries are finally given out, a collective sigh of relief is let out by those that received one. Those that aren't breaking camp are enlisted in the "extended army." Players going to extended spring training become a part of the "extended army," or "extended warriors."
It is almost as if the guys that are going to extended spring training are quarantined from those that are breaking camp. You almost feel obligated not to talk about your housing and travel plans when the extended army is close by, mostly because you feel bad. It can be awkward. I wouldn't wish extended spring training on my worst enemies.
Big league spring training is a whole different beast. When I received the call from Bill Geivett, I was ecstatic. I immediately went from excited to nervous and thought, "I had better go run 15 miles and work out twice today." My motivation and excitement for spring training had never been so high.