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Fandom And The Spring Training Injury

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Twice this Spring, Blue Jays fans have had the gutting news of an injury from Dunedin. There is something so helpless in that.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Optimism springs eternal. Every Spring, baseball fans allow themselves to dream. 162 games is a long season, and anything can happen. Your team could be the Kansas City Royals or Baltimore Orioles surprising everybody and making the playoffs. Even fans in the most obvious rebuilding situations see themselves as a possible surprise team, if everything goes right.

Then something happens. You don't always see it, or hear about it and that is what makes it even worse. During a baseball season, there aren't many practices during the season. There is batting practice but it is rare that injuries happen there, save the odd incident (see: Mariano Rivera). But, in Spring Training, all there is is practice. And injuries happen.

And you feel helpless as a fan. When someone gets hurt during a game, you see them leave the game or you hear about it, they get evaluated. Then sometimes they get re-evaluated. When someone gets hurt in Spring Training - especially during a practice - unless you happen to be on social media, it's hard to get prepared. It's what made the Marcus Stroman news - and the Michael Saunders news before that - so jarring. Not only were fans learning Stroman was out, but he was out for the year.

It's the worst kind of surprise. All that optimism takes a hit. Forget 0 to 60. You go from 100 to 0. We're talking about practice. Not a game, not a game. Practice. Why did you have to field bunts. Why did he have to stop, you ask yourself. Why. You know pitchers can get hurt. It happens, seemingly every day. But this is not even an arm injury. Which makes it better and worse at the same time. He wasn't hurt doing what he normally does. But at least the arm is fine.

This isn't just about Stroman or Saunders. The Blue Jays weren't going to stay 100% healthy all season no matter what. But there's something different about a Spring Training injury. Of course pitchers have to practice fielding. Of course they do, but you don't think that way at first.

All in all, the Blue Jays pitching depth will be tested. I'm probably more confident in a trio of Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez or Daniel Norris than most, but it's still not a great feeling.

But then you remember. It's still Spring. There's still every opportunity for things to happen. It's a long season. But it hurts. Most everybody expected Stroman to be the Blue Jays best starter. When you lose someone like that, it's hard to recover. But then you look at Norris and Sanchez and they can be this year's Stroman. A rookie who comes out of the minors and excels at the big league level.

Every winter, you wait for Spring. Spring Training brings all of the optimism of a new season, and for a second you forget the negatives of baseball. And that's when you get brought back to earth by injuries. By the disappointment. But a baseball season is a grind, and the path to the playoffs is never a straight line.