One of the first signs of spring is when the redbud trees start to bloom. I don’t know why they are called redbuds because the flowers are pink and very pretty. Anyway, I saw the first one in bloom a week or so ago. When that happens you can count on it, winter is on the way out and spring time is near. About the same time I saw little green shoots coming up out of the ground in my yard and in a couple of days the first daffodils burst forth attesting to the reality that warmer temperatures are on the way.

I am in Orlando, Florida at the time I am writing this. In just a week or two this area will welcome throngs of folks during school spring break. Thankfully I am here before that onslaught. Millions of other people from all over the world come here every year to visit the many theme amusement parks. There is even a Holy Land Experience that attempts to portray life in the time of Jesus in the land of the Bible.

The many fine golf courses in central Florida also attract a lot of people. I am not a golfer. I don’t even own a set of clubs but I understand why someone would come here to play.

In addition to all that is stated above, I suspect there are many other attractions that bring people to this part of the Sunshine State in the spring. I believe the best reason for visiting this magical city and surrounding areas is baseball spring training. There are fifteen teams that have their spring training facilities along the coast and in the central part of Florida. There are another fifteen teams in the Cactus League in Arizona.

My wife and I enjoy watching the Atlanta Braves play other teams in the Grapefruit League. This is a time for teams to prepare for the regular season as the players get into the swing of things after the off season. It is also a time for other players to prove they are ready for the big league.

The Braves lost the first game we attended. The Washington Nationals came from behind to win 16-15. Although the score looks like it, this was not a football game. 31 runs. 37 hits. Seven errors. Braves pitchers issued 11 walks.

To say the least, it was a poorly played game that lasted about four hours. Even though it was not a good game we came back the next day. After all, this is spring training. A time for everyone to do their best and for everyone to have a chance to show what they can do. A time for veterans and newcomers alike to hone their skills and build on their past experience.

In a real sense I think life is like that. Most of “the game” is not life or death. It is a time to show who we are and to learn how to be better. It is a time for growing and maturing. We are given the opportunity to prepare for times when the stakes are high and we need to be at the top of our game.

In the meantime there will be days like that Braves-Nationals game last week. We will not be at our best but we will not despair. We will keep working at it. Hopefully others will be patient with us and we will not be too hard on ourselves.

Welcome to spring training. Make the most of it because the games that count are ahead.

Jamie Jenkins

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