Spring Training Winter Haven

Our far-flung contributor Jim Provencher in Australia sent us a poem in response to my essay about hometown baseball from a few days ago (“Organized Ball”). Jim spent youthful days in Portland, Maine, playing Babe Ruth League, high school, and American Legion baseball.

Here’s what he told us: “It’s weird, but everything, all the lingo and rituals you commemorate we did as kids too in Portland, Maine . . . so it meant a lot to me. I coached a lot of baseball and here in Oz was the State Rep coach for girls softball.  My old Tony Gwynn Rawlings glove sits right here on my desk pocketing the ball from the Minnesota High School finals (we lost!) . . . we were the dark horse rag-tag team from the little farming town of Faribault, a blow-in . . . Thanks for bringing back all the memories.  Now it’s just . . . the hot-stove league for me. I attach a poem I wrote half a century ago, when I lived in a little orange grove picker’s shack right next to the old Red Sox Winter Haven spring training facility where I whiled away many an afternoon, happily watching those easy-paced games, infield practice, whatever. The Tigers were just a few miles over in Lakeland, the Dodgers down at Vero Beach. Days of bliss for me . . .” –PM


Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli


Spring Training Winter Haven

for Rico Petrocelli

by Jim Provencher


A little sore a little stiff

winter’s never long enough

oil the glove bone the bat

polish spikes wet a chaw

memory saves a step around the bag

I can spoil the jam inside

give me the extra base I’ll take it

I lie like leather in the groove


Sweat showers like success

and works warm lubricant

round my thickened waist and raisin skin

my eyes are slit like gunsights

drawing beads on flies and fouls

the mortgage on third’s paid off

with dives for darters barehand grabs

I’m no evicted shortstop who lost his wheels

I make my home at third


I protect the plate punch and stick

behind the runner bingle in the hole

I can deliver the long ball when it counts

15 last year this year I’m 30

maybe I’ll switch to a lighter bat

ball sails in big as a continent this spring

and with a sweet smack I kiss the equator

they pay me to hit ropes


My past performs like a politician

routine buddy the old routine

I never wash my socks

my feet know what to do

somewhere in the diamond constellation

I’m a steady star I feel good

I know the best place to eat in any town


Another spring not the spring

not coming off a big year

and nowhere near my last at all

no ground ball hiccups off the grass

good hands good hands my hands

smooth as ash the color of wood

routine outs scattered clapping

polite as I approach the plate

no burden but to do my job

the sun is butter on my back

that kind of year that kind of year 




2 Responses to Spring Training Winter Haven

  1. David Daniel says:

    I love this — the language of baseball, the ebb & flow of action. The frictions of age and time, and the wisdom & blandishments that accrue thereunto . . . “the sun is butter on my back.”

    It could be a riddle, asking who am I? Answer: Rico Petrocelli, shaking hands with eighty.