By my best estimation, I have never spent more than nine consecutive days not in the Midwest. It is where I was born. It is where I live. It is a thing that forms who I am as a person. The sadness of this statement is not lost on me.
But there are small windows in a Midwesterner’s life where they get to escape the vapid tundra they inhabit and make a pilgrimage south. Some go to relax, some go to imbibe excessively, others have ideas of gambling or swimming with dangerous and/or cute ocean creatures. But we baseball fans, we have a different guise in which we venture toward more habitable climates. There is meaningless baseball that needs to be observed first-hand. But do not let the inviting warmth of the sun act as a false security blanket. Traveling, even for baseballing purposes, can be treacherous. Allow me to submit some tips on what to seek and avoid while dragging your frozen ass to Spring Training.
- Sunscreen. Don’t use it. You may see advice to the contrary, but pay no mind. If you don’t wear sunscreen, you will certainly get sunburned. This will be painful, yes, but it will also act as a conversation starter. As you are well aware, Midwesterners LOVE talking about the God-damned weather. If show up back to work sunburned, you will certainly be asked about it. Instant conversation!
- Custom Jersey Disguise. Look, lots of teams invite many players to Spring Training. This requires them to make lots of jerseys with numbers reaching the 80s sometimes. Get on MLB.com, and make yourself a custom jersey with the number 74 or something. Get a cap and some baseball pants, too. Add a pair of Oakleys and BAM! Instant access to all ballparks! Play it cool, and you might even get a chance to stand in right field for an inning or two. A couple of days in the clink is certainly a reasonable price to pay for the story. *This tactic may not work for women, children, or anyone outside the ages of 18 to 35ish.
- Stand Out at the Signature Line. If seeking a signature before or after a game, you will certainly be part of a large group looking to do the same. If you want a player to notice you, you need to stand out. Try wearing a chef’s outfit, or offering a basketball to sign, or screaming in a foreign language. Every little bit helps. Being an attractive lady helps as well. No amount of individuality can match some good cleavage and a pair of bedroom eyes.
- Act Like You’ve Fucking Been There Before. Since no one visits your dumb town, you may not know this, but people hate tourists. They are viewed as unseemly bumpkins, intent on driving up the wait times at Cheesecake Factories and taking pictures of themselves in front of insignificant things. When sightseeing, keep your camera in your bag. Taking pictures at the game isn’t the worst thing, but be wary of when you snap, lest you want to bore coworkers and friends with your 89-part photo essay titled Blurry Photos of Large Men Standing on Grass. Also, go to eat at places special to that location. Download the Yelp app and plan your trip like a grownup. You can Eat Fresh™ in any city. This is vacation.
- Don’t Go Home. Baseball aside, you will undoubtedly be intoxicated by the warm weather, lack of salt stains on your car, non-burning air, and easy access to beaches, fresh fruit and mixed-race prostitutes. You will enjoy your time very much and when the time comes to fly back, there will be a moment where you wish you could walk away from your crappy job and annoying family. You will envision a fresh start in a new place where no one knows about your bedwetting problem or library fines. You will want to stay forever. Do it. Burn your driver’s license, empty your bank accounts, and cut up your credit cards. Pick and name and think of a backstory. Think about that backstory until you have it memorized. Use generalities, nothing too specific – nothing that can be fully vetted. You will probably have to find work as a day laborer of some kind. The work will be hard, but you will go back to your illegal off-the-books garage apartment feeling a sense of purpose – that you completed something. No more cubicle for you, world traveler! You are in charge of your own destiny for once in your life! You will fill your remaining days as a vagrant and a tramp. You will die alone and penniless, no doubt. But the WEATHER!
I hope this helps. Have a safe trip, fair NotGraphs readers.