LAKELAND, Fla. — TO: FREE PRESS SPORTS DEPARTMENT

FROM: SPRING TRAINING CREW

Dear Everyone:

Arrived safely in Florida, and what a surprise! It’s freezing cold. It’s raining. Half the Tigers are down with the flu. The other half are sipping mugs of hot soup. Driving is almost impossible, what with the flooding. And everyone is still reeling from the news last night, when the guy on the TV said “snow flurries expected.” Honest to God, it’s really something.

And to think, just a few days ago you were all ribbing me about coming down here. “Don’t work too HARD,” you said. “Florida, huh? Gee, that’s ROUGH,” you said. “Better luck NEXT YEAR,” you said. “Spring TRAINING?” you said. “TOUGH BREAK!” you said.

Well, if only I could laugh. If only I could drive to the beach and dangle my feet in the ocean and think about how lucky I am. I can’t do that, of course. Shark warnings.

No golf, either. The three-day hailstorm pretty much ravaged every course in the state. Instead, we mostly stay inside our rented apartment — Gary Santaniello, our baseball writer, and me. We don’t mind too much. There’s hot chocolate, and Gary has gone out for some firewood. The police said we’re better off indoors, anyhow, what with the big crime wave that started last month. We lost two rent-a-cars already. Oops. Sorry, Boss. Guess you can’t be too happy about that.

The apartment, by the way, is all we expected, if we expected North Korea. It’ll be fine, I’m sure, once we get rid of the mice. And the alligators. We do need to get some coal for the furnace. Come to think of it, we need to get a furnace. Sunburn? No, heater burn Of course, it would all be OK if the Tigers were as cheery as you claimed they would be. “Should be tough getting INTERVIEWS,” you said. “You’ll have to interrupt their TANNING SESSIONS. Boy, do we pity YOU!” Do you remember saying that?

Well, gosh, were you guys wrong! There’s no problem interrupting their tanning, since the sun hasn’t shone since we got here. It is kind of tough getting interviews, though, as the team bus is always running back and forth to the clinic.

Poor Sparky Anderson. Sneezing all the time. It’s hard to manage a team with a box of Kleenex under your arm. It’s even harder to blow your nose with ski gloves. I don’t think the players were quite prepared, either. Lance Parrish missed half a practice yesterday, shopping for fur boots. And Jack Morris spent five hours looking for a hooded down parka. Couldn’t find one anywhere.

I tell you, Florida isn’t what we expected.

Strange, because since prehistoric times, newspaper writers have been leaving cold climates in February to go to Florida for spring training. And they have always encountered bitter resentment from coworkers, who do little things like stuff letter bombs in their briefcases, and say, “Have a nice trip
— horse-breath.”

I don’t really understand this. Who would want to be down here now, during flu season? Even the shuffleboard courts are iced over. A guy hit a shot yesterday and it’s still going. This is enviable? Well. I suppose the resentment is just one of those crazy things that happens in springtime, like the grass turning green. Too bad there’s no grass left down here.

Guess you heard about the tidal wave. Shoulda brought my skates

Anyhow, I’ll try my best to get some serious work done, as soon as they get the snow tires on my car. Hey, remember those cracks you made about the swimming pool? “Work hard on your BREASTSTROKE. Don’t fall off your RUBBER RAFT! DON’T DRINK AND FLOAT!” Well, thanks for the concern. We won’t be doing any swimming, though. Or rafting. Maybe some ice skating.

Frankly, I’m kind of concerned about the Tigers getting in shape down here. Sparky was talking about a cross-country skiing regimen, but I don’t know. Isn’t that mostly for Norwegians? Surprised? Yes, we are. A little. All that suntan oil and cocoa butter we bought at the airport? What a waste. And we charged it on the expense account, too, which is a real bummer, huh, Boss?

Anyhow, I’d like to write more, but Gary is due back with the wood and I’ve got to get some kerosene, since all the power went out with the electrical storm. Then we’ll catch a sleigh over to the Tigers practice and try to do some interviews. I hope the TV guys don’t hog all the space heaters.

I sure have been humbled by this. Just goes to show you that when it comes to work, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Hope all is well. See you in a month when this hellish nightmare is over. Hope you can forgive me for ever sounding cocky.

Sincerely,

Mitch

P.S. Now do you feel better?

P.P.S. Good. I lied about everything.

P.P.P.S. Pass the suntan oil, will ya, Gary?

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