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How To Watch Spring Training Baseball

TEMPE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 21: Matt Moore #55 of the Los Angeles Angels poses for a portrait during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium on February 21, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona.
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

I am a terrible optimist when spring training begins, and not just because the sun will start setting after 6 p.m. What time does the NFL start? More like: Is the Chicago White Sox's preseason matchup against the Arizona Diamondbacks televised (no), and where can I watch it (I cannot)?

I will read about the PECOTA and ZiPS projections, but I am watching baseball simply to watch baseball; I simultaneously believe and discredit everything that I see. Spring training instills in me a purity of purpose. Spring training is for booting up MLB.TV multiview and keeping at least two games on from 1 to 6 p.m. It's for your biennial Scott-Kingery-is-so-back bonanza—he's currently at a 1.695 OPS, if you even care—and that's not just because of spring training. Lucas Giolito has a 8.31 ERA? Don't care, it's just spring training. The Padres lost 14-1 to the Dodgers in the first game of spring training? They will literally never recover from this. Meanwhile, Shohei Ohtani is still a walking highlight reel. I'm thinking he's back and better than ever!

Here's how my Monday spring training experience went: I put on two games, Phillies–Blue Jays and Red Sox–Tigers. The Phillies don't need any explanation, but the Red Sox served as the second choice because if anyone is going to con me into watching the Boston Red Sox, it's Lucas Giolito. As a bonus, the game turned out to be the newly Jason Benetti–led broadcast of the Detroit Tigers, which I enjoyed after taking an adequate amount of time to grieve; there's nothing quite like hearing Benetti ask a color commentator, "And why is that?" The presence of these two White Sox-affiliated Cool Guys was the third-most important reason to watch, after the most important reason, which is "Is there a game on?" and the second-most, which is "Does the game contain any current or former Phillies or White Sox?"

Which is why somewhere around the time that the Blue Jays loaded the bases against the Phillies, I chose the Pirates–Rays game to help fill out the multiview grid. Oneil Cruz and Ke'Bryan Hayes and their parents' opposing capitalization/punctuation conventions are all verified Cool Guys in my mind, and the Pirates even score highly on the fourth-most important reason for viewing, which is "How well-baked are my plans of someday attending a home game at their stadium?" Did you know that it takes more time to take the Pennsylvanian from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh than it does to drive? This shouldn't be surprising, knowing the state of the American railway system (one contributing factor is that Amtrak doesn't own the Pittsburgh Line that the Pennsylvanian runs on west of Harrisburg; that is run by Norfolk Southern, which is, in fact, that Norfolk Southern), but in France you can cross a similar distance in three hours

I highly recommend the somewhat psychedelic experience of having three games of baseball on at once, because Hayes didn't wind up seeing any at-bats that game, and I felt no rage. Spring training, right? By the time I tuned in, Cruz was already done for the day, and Giolito didn't pitch either—his last outing was three days ago. There are just so many guys; Statcast only covers a few games, but when it does, it provides a wonderful lineup of generic player silhouettes. As a casual offseason follower, every roster change is a surprise, and because it's spring training, there's no such thing as an unpleasant surprise.

The Phillies lost, the Pirates won, and I honest to god cannot remember the final result for the Tigers and the Red Sox—I chalk that up to a successful spring training viewing experience. After all that was said and done, I put on the Angels–Rangers game to close out the day and registered, in order, Logan O'Hoppe, Mickey Moniak, and Matt Moore. I hadn't thought about those guys since at least last year, and then suddenly, there they were. It's like one of those fun visual tricks where you can unfocus your eyes and see an image—only, watch the Ohtani-less Angels for long enough after watching three baseball games at once before that, et voilà: You're having fond memories of Matt Moore.

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