Spring Training 101: How to talk baseball 

Spring training has its own lingo and lore. Here’s a primer:

» Cactus League: Unofficial title of group of teams training in Arizona.

» Grapefruit League: Teams training in Florida.

» Split squad: Because of the large number of players in camp that coaches want to evaluate, teams often split their players into two groups and play two exhibition games in different locations.

» High numbers: One of the more comical aspects of spring training is seeing players who will inevitably be cut from the team wearing seldom-seen numbers such as 74 or 91.

» Phenom: Derived from phenomenal, an old-time baseball word referring to unknown hitters who tear up the Cactus or Grapefruit leagues, only to see their average plummet when pitchers begin throwing curveballs.

» Fundamentals: The boring and repetitive drills that take up the first weeks of spring training — such as pitchers taking fielding practice or hitters practicing their bunting — only to be virtually ignored until a midseason slump spurs a manager to grumble that the team needs to "get back to the fundamentals."

» Light air: Reference to high desert altitude, which causes well-struck balls to travel farther than they do closer to sea level.

» Optimism: A staple of spring training, probably inspired by the leisurely pace and lack of importance placed on games’ outcomes; even the worst teams fool themselves into thinking that their young phenoms or their aging hurler’s new conditioning program could put them in the running for a pennant.

» ‘Everybody’s undefeated’: Oft-used line, related to optimism, uttered during spring training by players and managers of bad teams who are secretly stunned they are technically still tied for first place.

» Road trip to Tucson: As the outlying city in the otherwise tightly bunched Cactus League, games in Tucson require players to take long bus rides. Such rides are almost never taken by the most highly paid veteran players, however, who take part in split-squad games closer to Phoenix or nurse phantom injuries back at the team’s resortlike hotel.

» The Pink Pony: Legendary Scottsdale watering hole hearkening back to a simpler time when crusty general managers knocked back scotch-and-sodas while sealing blockbuster trades with a handshake.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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