It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or not. Depending on who you ask.
Spring Training is the time before baseball season where players practice in exhibition games. For me, Spring Training is me going cold turkey without my husband after several months of having him at home day in and day out. He leaves and is gone for about four weeks. Spring Training gets easier year after year, but I don’t think it’ll ever be easy. We just learn how to deal.
Contrary to other baseball spouses who may travel with their significant others to Spring Training, I usually stay behind. It’s always work, usually money. And soon it will be E’s school.
The first time my husband left for Spring Training, our relationship was in a rough patch, so his departure eventually meant that we broke up. Even though he may have felt sad for our breakup, all I knew was that I was heartbroken and mad while he was out in Phoenix enjoying baseball and sunshine.
The next year his job as pre-game and post-game show host required him to go to Spring Training as soon as pitchers and catchers reported—which is usually around Valentine’s Day. I was pregnant, and this would be our first big separation after his return back to the East Coast after the end of baseball season, and our reconciliation. My mood swings crept through the phone waves, and every solo trip to the grocery store made me angry at Major League Baseball all over again. (He was there for the birth, if you’re wondering. MLB couldn’t take that away from us.)
The year after our first Spring Training as a couple I spent it in Kansas City with a baby. I was teaching and trying to make progress with my dissertation. You could say my dissertation is the background of my relationship with baseball—my whole graduate career even. You can also turn it around: baseball is the background to my professional career.
When you’re in this position, you eventually figure out how to handle the distance. Video chat. Text messaging random thoughts or pictures of your adventures throughout the day. Emails with business that must be taken care of. Questions from well-intentioned people who didn’t know that their questions about my husband’s travels felt like pin pricks in my chest. “When is he coming home? Are you going? Do you have family who can help you?” Every answer carefully thought out. You don’t want people to think you can’t keep it together when you’re by yourself.
And I can keep it together when I’m by myself. After all, I lived by myself for a while. But I needed the company. I needed people to spend time with me. It seemed like it was during this period where I needed company the most. I didn’t want to feel alone.
I started to make up travel plans to New York City. There was always a conference or meeting to attend. That year I was pregnant I had not one but two baby showers. I was grateful for the distraction just as much as for the presents.
The next spring Training, I stayed in Kansas City, again. I was finishing my dissertation. It was the first time I sent away my daughter to daycare full time. My husband, the man flying to Arizona for six weeks, encouraged me to put her so I could dedicate more waking hours to writing instead of always fitting in dissertation work before I was fully awake or before I went to sleep. I needed the time, but I felt guilty that I was home alone and she was in the care of someone else. This prevented me from flying out to Arizona.
The year after, my husband left later, but only by a week. The play-by-play broadcaster doesn’t need to be there when pitchers and catchers report. We had an extra week and it didn’t make any difference because it would be three months until we saw each other again. It was his first Spring Training calling games for the Houston Astros. I stayed behind because I had a job and because someone had to pack up the apartment, right? Three months. 90 days total. I counted every day.
Every Spring Training seems to be rife with emotions. So many things going on.
I wonder if Spring Training in MLB is also a season for me, for my soul: maybe Spring Cleaning? Balance my emotional checkbook? Get back in touch with me and my goals? Every Spring Training up until this year had been intense, fraught, painful. Yes, painful.
I had to allow myself sometimes to cry, to miss him. It’s okay to get upset. I’ll have to make sure to teach our daughter that, even if some day that will come back to haunt me. Now I travel for work. She knows our work take us away from home for periods of time. She may think we love our careers and we love that it takes us away from home. We do love our careers. We do not love that it takes us away from her.
This year, things were different. Spring Training went by so fast, I didn’t even get to enjoy the time to check in with myself.
Because we’re finally both gainfully employed and not borderline broke, we could afford a trip to Florida to spend time during Spring Training. I’m still getting used to the baseball life, as you can imagine. However, Spring Training coincides with an intense time in the Spring semester: conference season. With my new job I have to attend academic conferences.
March was a whirlwind of activity. I finished putting together the rough draft of the newsletter and got on a plane to Florida. In between meals and sightseeing in Florida, I would check my email or double-check article edits. I then packed up for Baltimore to attend NASPA for work. While at NASPA I had to copyedit the manuscript and cover panels for future WIHE articles. My mother came to Baltimore to see me, and we spent time with family there. I then returned to Houston and met my sister in law at the airport. She’d be staying with us for a week and watch Miss E while I went to another conference, this time in Fort Worth. By the time she left on Thursday, I was already thinking ahead to what I wanted to take care of before my husband came back to town. This past weekend was the first free weekend I’ve had in weeks.
I may have overdone it this time.