Thursday, March 8, 2007


Wow! Lakeland is a perfect baseball venue. I'd never attended a "real" game there before, just an informal intrasquad game years ago at which I recall Sparky Anderson being vocally managerial. This time I paid for admission to Joker Marchant Stadium and opted for a spot on the left-field "berm," the angled hillock just behind the fences. It was a lovely vantage from which to see a game (not to mention batting practice, during which I came oh-so-close to snagging a HR ball more than once). The Tigers hosted the Braves, into extra innings ( I confess to leaving before the resolution of the 4-4 tie, with concerns about Orlando gridlock -- not unreasonable concerns, as it happens.) Detroit looks good this year, with the addition of Gary Sheffield. BTW: Lakeland offers the best selection of non-Budweiser products of any place I've been in the Grapefruit League (or in the majors, come to think of it). First time I've ever been able to tell a Brit fan at a baseball game where he could find some Boddington's.

Leaving 2007 Spring Training behind, I'm in a reminiscent mood. My 1st-ever Spring Training was the last time the Cards were reigning champs, '83. I remember an upstart rookie outfielder named Andy van Slyke pounding a long home run against Joacquin Andujar, the '82 Series star, in one of those serendipitously-discovered free intrasquad games at the Cards' old St. Pete facility. (Andujar, who once said his favorite word in English is "youneverknow," responded with a mock finger-wag at van Slyke).

Time to join my philosophy colleagues and talk shop. In preparation I spent some quality time out of the conference hall today, wandering our host city -- Columbia SC. What a beautiful old town, with the 200+ year-old University campus nestled in the middle of things and a short stroll from the new River Greenway. I went to school in a different Columbia, not without its own sense of history -- but this one's unique in its own way. (How else could it be?)

When I leave here I'm looking forward to encountering another old friend -- a fellow academic who shares my ironic regard for our common profession, and (like Groucho & me) wonders what kind of club would have someone like us for members -- on the trek home, in the other Carolina. What a terrific week it's been -- but I miss my family. Just about time to go.

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