Town Crier: Spring training is here — play ball!

MONTCLARION: March 1, 2013

Spring is in the air — spring baseball, that is. Even the Cactus Wrens are tweeting about it.

As you read this, the Giants and A’s are probably warming up for their first preseason matchup in Phoenix. Bats are cracking, blenders are whirring and fans in Bermuda shorts are popping their beer tops. I’ve been going to spring training since the 1980s. I love the laid-back vibe of the desert ballparks, where you’re so close to the field you can reach out and touch the players.

There’s something about warm sun in spring that seems sinful. Folks get downright giddy, as if they’ve escaped from a Siberian snow-clearing crew. And the carnival atmosphere feeds the excitement, with food tents and beverage stations hawking everything from hot links to hot toddies. I’ll miss sitting in the stands this preseason, but you can bet I’ll watch the games on TV. You might say I’ll be “channeling” the excitement.

Email bag: A’s fan Penny Robb is ready for baseball. After reading my column on Wednesday $2 A’s tickets, she started thinking about her own history with the team.

“I started going to games when the Oakland Oaks were here, as my father’s best friend owned the team.” Now a grandma, she likes to soak up the sun in the ballpark with her son and 6-year-old grandson — and sometimes her older granddaughter.

Legendary sale: One of Oakland’s bigger-than-life traditionstakes place this weekend — the annual White Elephant sale (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 333 Lancaster St.) How hard do volunteers work on this remarkable rummage sale? Check out the documentary White Gloves at this link: The sale started on two card tables in 1958 and last year alone brought in $1.7 million for the Oakland Museum.

Street scene: Reader Tod Vedock says the city is gearing up for the annual Oakland Running Festival on March 24. Ten thousand runners are expected for the marathon, generating lots of good will — not to mention an estimated $3.5 to $4 million in revenue. Vedock says he hopes folks will line the race route (part of it runs through Montclair) and be patient with volunteers directing traffic around the detours. See for the race route.

Animal tales: Nothing says Valentine’s Day like 16 loving arms. Crab fishermen brought not one but two octopi to Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco this month. The beaky creatures were adopted as part of the aquarium’s octopus rescue program, paying fishermen to bring in the armed intruders rather than kill them for poaching in crab nets. The octopi, for their part, are grateful. Smart and sensitive, they even play games with the Pier 39 aquarium’s biologists.


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