FORT MYERS, Fla. — You check the JetBlue website all day to make sure the carrier still has planes flying out of Logan during the latest snowstorm. You leave for the airport five hours early because you see images on television and the Mass Pike looks like the halfpipe run in Sochi. You get to Logan and learn your flight is canceled. You wait five hours and miraculously get on a plane that leaves Boston after midnight. Feels like the last chopper out of Saigon. Your big, aching head hits the pillow in Fort Myers at 4:30 a.m.
A few hours later you are at JetBlue Park, a.k.a. Fenway South, and you see 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts wearing a Red Sox home white No. 2 jersey and you realize it was all worthwhile.
Have we ever been more ready for spring training?
The Polar Vortex has won. We concede defeat. Living in a snow globe has intensified our appetite for baseball. And finally, the Red Sox are back.
Saturday is the day pitchers and catchers report.
Don’t you love that expression? Pitchers and catchers report. It conjures an image of John Farrell sitting impatiently behind a clubhouse card table, ready to hand out sheets of rules and government-issue uniforms as Felix Doubront, Jon Lester, and David Ross stand at the front of a line that snakes past the first row of lockers and the bathroom.
Doubront says, “Sir, Felix Doubront reporting for duty, sir!’’ and Farrell greets him with, “Get down and give me 20!”
All we need is Douglas Neidermeyer and a pledge pin.
It’s nothing like that at all, of course. “Reporting’’ can be done by calling any club official from a Winn-Dixie and telling them you’ll be at the first workout.
There is no official reporting. It’s like “Play it again, Sam’’ and “Casablanca.’’ Humphrey Bogart never says, “Play it again, Sam,’’ in the iconic film, but it’s been repeated so often we’ve come to think he did. Ditto for pitchers and catchers “reporting.’’ No. They just show up for the first workout. Nobody punches a clock or signs a register.
A lot of the Red Sox are already here, of course. The Globe’s intrepid Pete Abraham and Nick Cafardo have already talked to Clay Buchholz, Grady Sizemore, Mike Napoli, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Miller, and Bogaerts, filing features to bring you up to date on what the heroes have been doing since they won the World Series. Jake Peavy showed his face early Friday. Milton native Alex Hassan is here early to get a jump on the outfield competition.
Disney folk to the north would argue, but JetBlue Park is the happiest place on earth. Everyone is congratulating one another, or saying, “Happy new year,’’ when they connect for the first time since Duck Boat Saturday last November. A stadium employee was rolling a new coat of paint on one of the walls outside of a restroom early Friday and the guy was actually whistling while he worked.
Veteran clubhouse managers Joe Cochran, Tommy McLaughlin, Steve Murphy, John Coyne, and Edward “Pookie” Jackson had an extra bounce in their steps as they went about their tasks getting ready for the first workouts. Cochran and McLaughlin have been with the Sox since the mid-1980s. Jackson found the Sox when he moved to Fort Myers from Jacksonville in 1994.
When you think of all the things you loved about the 2013 Red Sox, think of what the Sox players did for the clubhouse guys and other assorted members of the Red Sox infrastructure.
The clubhouse workers are not millionaire players. They unload the trucks, clean the cleats, wash the uniforms, and do the errands to make the whole thing work. They are also part-time sports psychologists. They have wives and kids and mortgages. And they all made a bundle in 2013 because the Red Sox — the bearded worst-to-first-bunch — were unusually generous with their World Series shares. The 2013 Sox carved up their championship pie into 58 full shares, 14 partial shares, and multiple cash awards. A full share was worth $307,322. That doesn’t mean much to Stephen Drew, but it’s a big deal for the everyday people.
“Life-changing money,’’ said Jackson. “I think they were the most generous team in the history of baseball.’’
Another piece of spring training to make you feel warm all over.