Baltimore Orioles: Is Spring Training overly laid back?

Roughly 33 days until the Baltimore Orioles’ pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota for Spring Training. A couple of weeks later Florida Grapefruit league play begins in earnest. That means games.

One thing I hear a lot from fans is that they enjoy making the trek down to Spring Training because it’s much more laid back. Players are more approachable for autographs, many of the games are in the afternoon sun, and overall it’s just a more relaxed atmosphere. But should it be?

Please note, I’m in no way suggesting that players shouldn’t be approachable for autographs. In fact, I think that they should be MORE willing to sign autographs in ballparks while they’re on the field. Some players will come out and do it, but others will not. If fan engagement means something, give people what they want.

But players often say the same thing – that spring training is much more relaxed and laid back than the regular season. Well, veteran players say that at least. Guys who don’t have to necessarily work their way onto the team. I suspect if you’re playing for a job it isn’t quite as laid back as we’re led to believe.

However should it be as laid back as it apparently is? In saying that, I suppose I’m talking about the actual games. Players approach the games knowing they’re only playing a few innings. Heck, teams publish the rotation of pitchers that will pitch that day, for how long, and for which inning.

Spring Training is seen as a “destination,” while NFL Preseason is almost laughed off. However I know that many NFL coaches tell their starting players that they should prepare to play the entire game during preseason. And I think that’s prudent. While in the back of his mind the player might know he’s getting lifted at some point, it puts him in the mindset to be prepared.

When you tell guys how long they’re going to be in the game, or when they’ll be entering it, they might not take things quite as seriously. If I’m a manager I want my pitchers to have that bulldog mentality, just as they might in the regular season. If the team’s lost a couple of games in a row, I want my starting pitcher to think of himself as the team’s “stopper” that day – as he would in the regular season.

Instead players and coaches talk about getting their work in and so forth. And that’s important – don’t get me wrong. But if you prepare in a tough manner in the spring, you’ll prepare in a tough manner once the regular season rolls around. Just a thought.

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