Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The batsman cometh

Distantly, the ice shudders and cracks. The heavy clouds, purple as iceberg bottoms, lift just a shade. Days and days and days without sun, under chilly bone-scraping fog, seem at an end. Could winter be over?

Who'm I kidding? Winter never came to Northern California. The warmth and sun are creeping me out.

The only demarcation of spring is the chipper call of  Jon Miller, your friend and mine, welcoming everyone to another season of San Francisco Giants baseball on the radio, and the first day the Giants defend their 2012 World Series title.

That happened Saturday, the first broadcast from spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., the Giants beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (real name!) 4-1. Pitchers are getting their arms back, hitters their bats, broadcasters their voices, and I my ears. As keen as I was to catch the first game, I found it hard to jam it into my winter routine, and multiple innings went by before I remembered to listen.
Don't worry. Like the players and broadcasters, I'll be ready for the season opener.

I don't need much preparation. This is how I'll look (above), in fact. A picture of contentment for the next eight months.

Look, The Giants have won two World Series championships in three years. They're bringing back almost all the players from last year's roster, and strengthening here and there in the bullpen. They retrieved from New York's purgatory one of the truly good guys, Andres Torres, who will vie for left field with Gregor Blanco. In Saturday's first game, second baseman Marco Scutaro did exactly what he did to help win the World Series — hit the ball exactly where he wanted to, just when he needed to, scooting a runner into scoring position.

One day Scutaro will be scrutinized for some kind of drug that makes him the ideal, unreal, baseball player.

This is how I'll look, amused but unfazed by Marty Lurie's relentless hours-long pestering and tweaking on KNBR. When baseball comes, KNBR's format is three hours of baseball play-by-play, bracketed by 21 hours of Marty Lurie analyzing it.

Lurie exhibits mid-season form. He baits us, the unwashed and uninformed, to tell him on the air our meaningless answers to his meaningless questions: Which prospect has the best chance to make the club? Which Giant do you want to introduce the World Series pennant to fans on Opening Day? Will Manager Bruce Bochy go with four lefthanders in the bullpen? Catsup on your hot dog — OK, or abomination? What are the Giants' chances to become the only National Leaguers to win three world titles in four years?

Don't know. Don't care.

Don't care if the Giants win another World Series. They proved they can. This time I'm just going to lie back and enjoy this season, let the broadcasters' buttery voices wash over my ears, let them tell me the stories of players scrapping, competing, going hard against a strengthening National League West. Win or lose, I don't care.

Who'm I kidding?

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