My Spring Training

Big Joe on the Bump versus the Blue Jays on Thursday March 12th.

It is amazing how quickly things can go from “normal” to totally foreign. As I stood there taking this picture, I had already started to get alerts on my phone about the possibility of Major League Baseball suspending Spring Training. Earlier that day I had been walking around Pirates City, some 3 miles down the road, getting to see Oneil Cruz take on James Marvel in an exhibition game and watching a host of players interacting with one another, their coaches family and fans.

After walking the route to McKechnie Field at LECOM Park from the training facilities at Pirates City there I stood; IC Light in hand, with a Pirates 2020 Spring Training koozie wrapped around it, ready to watch some baseball. It wasn’t long before my phone buzzed again, actually my Fitbit because of the pairing. Spring Training was going to be suspended. At that moment it felt like everything around me stopped. My logical brain kicked into overdrive for a couple of minutes. I texted family, friends, acquaintances, associates, etc. to see how they were doing and to let them know what was going on. Then the illogical part of my brain powered through and took over, which is never a good thing.

Anxiety, shock and situational depression are all real things. All of a sudden I got very sad, anxious and hopeless; doing what almost every irrational person in my situation would do. I got incredibly drunk. For those of you that have never experienced a feeling like this, I don’t recommend it; actually I advocate against it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I had just spent so much of mine and my family’s money on a “business” venture for my Podcast, Bucs in the Basement, and for the new website I just created with my friend, Gary Morgan to cover the Pirates for 5 days; including tickets for all 5 games (7 on Friday Night for all of my family that is down here). Luckily for the “crazy” person I had become, there was plenty of Bromosas from Big Storm Brewing Company to “comfort” me. (As a side note they are delicious).

As the game was ending I had a moment of clarity. I thought again about my friends and family and how lucky I was to have some of them down here with me, I worried about my two older children back home in Pennsylvania, I tried to put myself in the players’ “shoes”, many of them far from home as well and about the local businesses that would be affected by the number of people that had cancelled trips or would be heading home a lot early than expected. Before leaving I agreed to meet the gentleman from Big Sky Brewing Company on Sunday March 15th at a local establishment to promote them and their beer. I then walked around the corner and made a promise to one of the local breweries, Darwin Brewing Company, that I would use my social media “powers”, limited as they are, to put the word out about how much they could use your help. I also vowed to come back the next day to do a podcast recording at their location.

After “sleeping it off” and reading text messages from my friends and family, one in particular from my brother from another mother/partner in crime, Gary, that hit me right in the feels and kicked me in the ass all at the same time. I almost immediately reached back out to one of the people I had texted the day before and picked up the phone for a much needed conversation. Michael McKenry may be “The Fort” to many, but to me he is an friendly ear that I can count on and is just an all around amazing guy. I talked with him for almost a half a hour as we processed the events of the previous days. For me it was a cathartic experience and I am not going to lie, I cried both during and after the call. The rest of the afternoon I spent participating in a “jumping” competition with my youngest at the hotel pool. I needed and am eternally thankful for all of this; the texts, the phone calls and an afternoon at the pool.

Friday afternoon, true to my word, I showed up at Darwin Brewing Company, across the street from an ominously empty LECOM Park and was graciously welcomed by everyone that worked there and even did a little recording about one of my favorite things, craft beer (podcast episode forthcoming). For a few minutes everything seemed almost “normal again”. I came back to the hotel after dinner with the family, had a restful night of sleep and went for a run. Breakfast, a morning at an animal park and another afternoon of swimming made me feel almost whole again…Almost.

I still haven’t been able to wrap my arms around my two oldest, who were recently informed that they wouldn’t be going to school for the next two weeks. I honestly believe that my eight year old has no idea what is going on. He just knows he will get to play with his friends outside or on Fortnite for the next two weeks and I won’t be waking him up earlier than he wants to be up. I have no idea what is going on at work. Surprisingly this is not my full time job. I am technically “on vacation”. And for the first time in some 19 odd years there is no baseball. The game I fell in love with, since I could hold a bat and a ball. The one constant in my life. I miss it so much already, even though I know it will be back sooner rather than later. However, for many that sooner cannot come fast enough because it will mean we are finally back “normal”.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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