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Spring training memories are priceless


MESA, Ariz. — For writers, spring training is the perfect time to recharge batteries, rekindle old friendships and retell the stories of baseball characters who make our jobs easier.

Hot Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella. Maid and professional troublemaker Tony Phillips. Legendary scouts Phil Rizzo And Gary Hughes.

Come mid-March, spring is well underway and you can’t wait for opening day to arrive. But the years pass in a blur, reminding you of the impact the game has on us all.

Last week at the Cubs complex, I ran into Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons, who has been covering baseball since he started working at the Boston Globe in 1972. Gammons suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2006, but he recovered and is still going strong at age 78. I have no intention of retiring. He said he tries to learn at least two new things every day, and I intend to steal that motto.

Two summers ago, Gammons said he was watching a young outfielder from Maryland. Matt Shaw in Cape Cod LeagueWhere Shaw hit .360 and was named league MVP. Gammons told me that Shaw, now a 22-year-old Cubs prospect, is the best player he’s ever seen in the Cape Cod League. It was a compliment Shaw considered the highest compliment.

Gammons and his new friend had a long conversation on the field Tuesday; occasionally interrupted by Cubs manager Craig Counsell, bench coach Ryan Flaherty and others who stopped by to say hello to Gammons, the most respected writer in the game.

Reporters get older and players get younger; but play is the bond that binds.

“Peter is the best,” Shaw said. “I met him when I was at the Cape and he knew a kid named Evan Sleight who is now playing at Alabama. They introduced me and obviously I knew who Peter was because I was a Red Sox fan. We start talking and by the end of the conversation we realize that we both love this sport. “He is the best writer in the sport, his stories are phenomenal and we just hit it off.”

Gammons left for Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., the next day; Here he would meet new GM Craig Breslow, whose game he had watched at Yale.

But Gammons hopes to be at Wrigley Field later this season or when Shaw reaches the majors.

Longtime Boston Globe baseball reporter Peter Gammons (right) talks with infield prospect Matt Shaw at the Cubs spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 27, 2024. (Paul Sullivan/Chicago Tribune)

“I don’t know if I adopted him or if he adopted me,” Gammons said.

On the other side of the valley, Roger Bossard was watering the pitch at Camelback Farm before a Cactus League game when I stopped by camp.

Often known by his nickname, “The Child’s Father” Bossard is entering his 58th season as the White Sox’ pitchman, and like Gammons, there’s no end game in sight.

“I’m not thinking about retirement,” Bossard said. “Jerry (Reinsdorf) was quoted about this in the paper a few months ago and asked, ‘What am I going to do (if I retire)?’ I feel the same way. I enjoy working in the field. “I’ll be here until I get home on March 12th and get old Betsy ready for opening day.”

Of course, “Ol’ Betsy” is Guaranteed Rate Field, which Bossard tends to as if it were his backyard. The mild winter, unlike some recent winters, left the field in good condition for the first game against the Detroit Tigers on March 28.

White Sox pitchman Roger Bossard prepares for the final game of the season against the Twins on October 5, 2022 at Guaranteed Rate Field.  (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
White Sox pitchman Roger Bossard prepares for the final game of the season against the Twins on October 5, 2022 at Guaranteed Rate Field. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

“This was one of the first years that I didn’t have to worry about tarping the field and heating or potentially spraying green paint to bring my field out of dormancy,” he said. “I’m going to put lots of high nitrogen on the field. I’m going to wake it up. If someone is buried under my field this spring, it’s going to come up with anything I put on it.”


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