For baseball fans, Opening Day is in the middle of April. For baseball players, it is in the middle of winter. The Uniform Player's Contract says that the club "may" offer a contract to the player by January 15. "May" in this case means "must." If no contract is forthcoming, the player is given his release.
Nervous apprehension thus becomes the natural state of mind for a professional athlete the year round. During the playing season his human fallibility invites a consequent cut in his standard of living it up. In the off season he waits, warily, for the Ides of January.
A nine-year major league veteran, I was chewing my nails expertly by the second week of January.
"When are we going to Tampa?" my 8-year-old daughter Jamie asked.
"Yeah," said my son Tim, 7. "My teacher wants to know. She says I'm lucky."
My 3�-year-old daughter, Kimberlee Anne (we call her Boo), had no comment.
"We don't go to Tampa this year," my wife Anne explained. "That's where the Reds train. Daddy's team doesn't train there."
"What team are you with now, Daddy?" asked Jamie.
The pre-teen-age female feigns ignorance of baseball. Insecure child, she refuses to admit that her father, a transient worker, is a publicly acknowledged "well-traveled veteran."
"The White Sox train in Sarasota," my wife informed her.