Our Stories: Spring Training 2020 – A Tradition Interrupted

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By Jim Halloran

All of us are going through disappointments regarding cancellations and postponements of our favorite spring sporting events – the Masters, Basketball’s March Madness, the Kentucky Derby among the casualties. My biggest disappointment was the halt of Spring Training Baseball. 

On Thursday, March 12, I was all set to leave the next day to meet in Florida with my two grown sons for our annual spring training baseball ritual. We have faithfully done this for 18 years. That evening came the announcement that all games would be cancelled. It has been our annual bonding time – father, sons, baseball, sunshine and cold beer. 

It is hard to beat. 

Each year we would clear our schedules and meet at the old Driftwood Inn in Vero Beach. At 6 p.m. we would partake with a cold beverage at the beach bar, followed by a cocktail and dinner up the street at the Ocean Grill Restaurant. 

The highlight of the evening is pulling out the sealed envelope and reading the results of our individual predictions made the previous year while seated at a table in the bar waiting for our name to be called for dinner. The one with the most correct predictions is excused from the bar bill. Following this we turn our attention to the coming season with each of us writing down predictions and placing them in a sealed envelope to be opened next year. 

There is always a very engaging discussion of the stupidity of each one’s predictions.  

The following morning we walk up the beach for breakfast at Mulligan’s Irish Restaurant. Then we take off for our first game usually at Port St. Lucie, the home of the Mets just 30 miles down the road. The sun feels so good, the beer so cool and the magical sound of the baseball hitting the bat so nostalgic. We spend three days traveling to games in South Florida before heading home.

This has been going on for 18 years without fail. There have been years with different venues but it always starts with the Driftwood Inn. This year when the announcement came, we huddled up over the phone to cancel – well almost. 

My youngest son, who lives in Florida, called the next day grieving for the missed event. He had recently gone through some tough times at work and so looked forward to the escape the tradition offers. Could we still meet at the Driftwood even for just an evening to make our predictions? 

Except for the 500 mile drive it was not impossible for me as I am retired. Not so for the oldest son whose job obligation in Atlanta would not allow him the needed time to arrive in time for the dinner. We found a substitute; my 17 year old grandson would fill in. 

The missing son did however participate by speaker phone at the annual reading of the previous year’s predictions. The plan going forward, starting next year, is to bring both grandsons making it a three-generation tradition.  

Saturday morning I took off for the eight-hour drive to Vero Beach for a great evening and Sunday morning breakfast.  Due to the coronavirus there would be no staying over as the shutdown was beginning and my son was called back to work. 

After a fabulous breakfast and morning visit, I was back in the car for the drive home. Although tiring and missing an important piece of the trio, it was still worth the effort. It kept the tradition alive. 

Although baseball is the excuse, the bonding is the reason. Next year we will be back at the Driftwood, hopefully with both grandsons adding that new element to the annual highlight of my Spring.

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