FEBRUARY 22, 1982
TO: ALL PITTSBURGH ORGANIZATION MINOR LEAGUE PLAYERS
FROM: BRANCH RICKEY III—DIRECTOR OF MINOR LEAGUE CLUBS
SUBJECT: REPORTING INSTRUCTIONS FOR 1982 SPRING TRAINING
Players are scheduled to report to Pirate City in Bradenton on two different dates.... Pitchers and catchers are to report on Monday, March 15, with infielders and outfielders reporting on Wednesday, March 17.... Although players are furnished meals and lodging free at camp and receive $3.00 weekly allowance for laundry...players are to bring to camp their own baseball shoes, gloves, warm up jackets, and personal items; uniforms and caps are furnished.... Only players signed to 1982 contracts will be furnished or reimbursed for transportation or permitted to live at Pirate City and participate in camp activities....
You have to spend money to make money." For years now I've been an avid proponent of this philosophy, and I have the first part of it down pat. Soon spring training will begin, and with that another financial opportunity will emerge. This time there will be no reckless spending sprees, no wanton waste of the money earmarked for me. I will hold onto the $3 each week, maybe bury it beneath one of the practice-field bases, and wait for my big chance in the stock market, or in silver futures, soybeans. I will know how and where to make the big score. Life will be simple, the way it was before.
Hints of breeze blow gently across wooden grandstands, ruffling the hair of retired men, young again. Hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream and beer iced in pails are carried about the bleachers. There are palm trees and glossy programs full of the promises of spring. Players lean on bats, laughing, and look at the women in the stands. Pitchers pose casually for camera-toting tourists and put their names on scraps of paper for sometimes nonexistent sons and daughters. There's an aura of optimism; the players move about the field with languid confidence and ease. The sun shines brightly on the spring trainings we would all wish to attend.
There is another spring training, though, for those of us within the decidedly minor leagues, and nothing is the same there as in the above scenario except, of course, for the sun. I know, because I've been going to minor league camps for years, most recently from March 17 to April 11, 1982 with the Pittsburgh Pirate organization at a site located between a Bradenton, Fla. swamp and an orange grove.
I knew how it would be. Intuitively, I knew. Way back, before doubts and misgivings, duplicity and ambivalence—not to mention sliders on the black; long ago, when Sunday School seemed to me stupid, because God played centerfield for the Giants, it was simple to see how it would be.
The first time I saw him was at Yankee Stadium in a benefit game for New York City Sandlot Baseball. Willie Mays batted once that night; I was surprised that the fly ball he hit could be caught. In my eyes it was the hardest, highest, deepest fly ever, to rightfield. The ball was beautiful, in the lights, floating down toward the bright green, and I tried to tell him that in a letter but he never got it. I thought Orlando Cepeda stole it from his locker.