Mark Franke: Baseball and golf mean it’s spring

The signs of spring are everywhere but something just doesn’t seem right.

It’s partly due to our typical northern Indiana weather. As a lifelong resident I should be accustomed to temperatures in the 60s one day and the 30s the next. It happens every year at this time but my tolerance level must be in decline.

The golf courses have opened. I know that because I live on a golf course and I can see them out there, or see them every other day when the temperatures are in the 60s. One can’t watch any sporting event without seeing a commercial for the Masters golf tournament and much of the talk at my American Legion post is about the startup of the various golf leagues.

But golf isn’t the sport I follow; it’s baseball, and the Major Leagues began the 2024 season last week. I have renewed my subscription to so I can watch as many games as I care to just so long as the Cubs, White Sox, Tigers or Reds aren’t one of the teams. MLB in its unassailable wisdom has decreed that Fort Wayne is in the local TV market for all four of these teams so their games are blacked out. That includes both home and away games so that limits things unless I can ever figure out the user interface to our TV service where — theoretically — these games are available.

Oh well, that leaves 26 other teams I can watch unless, of course, they are playing the Cubs, White Sox, Tigers or Reds.

Fortunately, we have the Fort Wayne TinCaps, our Class High A minor league team affiliated with the San Diego Padres. In my retirement I have both the leisure and the disposable income to hold season tickets. That’s 66 home games every season, most of which I am able to attend.

Last spring, April was a mild month, so the early TinCaps games were quite enjoyable. That hasn’t always been the case — remember we have northern Indiana’s weather — so some seasons have been a challenge. I will admit to leaving early on nights when the thermometer was dropping toward the 30s. But that is the blessing of season tickets; you can always come back tomorrow for another game.

The San Diego Padres, the legal employer of Fort Wayne’s players, released the TinCaps roster this week and it contains several familiar names from last year. I’m not sure if that means the Padres minor league system is loaded or that these players are not yet ready to advance to the Double A level.

But then, I’ve never understood the Padres’ player-development model. In my biased opinion the Padres view minor-leaguers as trade fodder rather than future Padres. Maybe I’m still upset about the Padres’ decision to decimate our roster just to get a year or so out of Juan Soto. Fort Wayne lost several talented prospects and for what? Juan Soto is now a New York Yankee and the Padres still haven’t won a World Series.

Since I am a lifelong Yankees fan, I probably shouldn’t complain (Soto started the season with a hot streak).

If complaining about baseball mismanagement is off the table, I will go back to golf. I worked nine years as a caddie and in the pro shop at the country club in my hometown of Waynedale. I learned a lot about real life there, mostly about working long hours for meager pay. I did save enough money to buy my first car and the work ethic I developed as a teenager served me well in my professional life.

My golf attachment ended one year in college when I had to sell my clubs to pay that semester’s tuition. Since then I have felt no desire whatsoever to swing a club, although I will confess that I still enjoy watching the golfers on the short par three hole behind my house. Not wanting to be cruel, some of those weekend warriors ought to find another hobby. They can’t be having any fun if they need three shots to reach a green only 135 yards away.

I would say I am done with golf but my wife decided to take it up in her retirement. Now the golf channel is streaming into our family room most waking hours. She considers my caddie experience adequate to make me her human encyclopedia as she asks questions about rules, strategy and scoring. The frightening thing is that I can usually answer her, drawing on some poorly repressed memory of 60 years ago.

Some things never change. Just don’t expect selling a set of golf clubs will pay for a semester at college these days.

Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Send comments to [email protected].