Valentine’s Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love outwardly showing (my clearly better half) Joy Jolise exactly how I feel about her. I enjoy giving gifts — even if it’s the Godiva chocolates that somehow always end up with more of my favorite fruit truffles than her favorite nutty ones — dealing with the long-stem roses that usually prick my fingers and going to a romantic dinner at her fourth-favorite restaurant because I forgot to make reservations in mid-January.
I’ll admit the preparations can be a bit aggravating. For instance, I have to read 25-30 cards at the store just to find the right one or two that either demonstrate how I feel about her in some sappy way or satisfy my weird sense of humor, which probably means I’ll be the only one laughing at the card. It’s even more stressful trying to sign the card on the steering wheel as I head home. Valentine’s Day will also be the only day of the year that I will be willing to match my tie to her outfit. I then embarrass myself — and her — as I take her dancing on some rooftop after dinner. But that isn’t the point. It’s a special holiday when the two of us can make lasting memories together.
I think all major league players and uniformed personnel should get that opportunity. This year, 27 of the 30 teams have pitchers and catchers reporting before Feb. 14. Only the Washington Nationals, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers report later.
When I was general manager of the Nationals, there were a couple years when I couldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with Joy because I was working and she was filming in Los Angeles. It was embarrassing to be surrounded at dinner by couples holding hands, sipping wine and showing their affection while I sat with co-workers, pitchers and catchers.
I recently asked several star position players to share their Valentine’s plans. Interestingly enough, most of them declined. They didn’t want to make them public or ruin a surprise.
Some of the players’ plans were incredibly romantic and expensive, such as helicopter rides, quick trips to Napa Valley, two-day cruises and jaunts to Cabo or Hawaii. Others had my same cliché plan: chocolates, flowers and a nice dinner. A few said they were just going to give a card, hug and kiss.
Whatever their plans might be, they at least get to celebrate the holiday — unlike the pitchers and catchers who have to report to spring training a day or two earlier for no good reason.
Once players report to spring training, they’ll get an average of one day off every 20 days throughout the season. They’ll be working through most holidays, and they won’t get successive days off until the All-Star break. And that’s if they don’t make the All-Star team.
I’m not sure everyone realizes how much time players are away from their loved ones. In most cases, wives and children stay at their offseason homes at least until school is out. Then they return to them by mid-August for the start of the school year. Add road trips on which players could be gone as long as 10 days at a time, and you get my point.
Is it really too much to ask commissioner Rob Manfred and Players Association director Tony Clark to reach an agreement for pitchers and catchers to report after Feb. 14? It’s the one and only holiday during the baseball season that the sport can give back to the players. Spring training is too long anyway. Cutting two or three days is not going to have any effect on Opening Day. None.