New Year’s resolutions are overrated. Why should we pick that arbitrary time to revaluate ourselves and our behavior? I think it would be far more American to dispense with New Year’s and put all our efforts into Spring Training.

Look what Reggie Jackson, Tommy John, and other baseball luminaries do. They work hard all summer, what with a gruelling schedule of some 100-plus games, traveling across the country, baseball chapel services, and so forth. Then, they slough off in the winter. Gravity pulls them and their stomachs lower than is good for them. (Some truly committed players, of course, play winter ball.)

Then comes Spring Training. It begins sometime in February in a warm, lush climate—Florida or Arizona, for example—a kind of retreat atmosphere. (Coincidentally, Lent comes during Spring Training). The Dodgers and the Twins, the Yankees and the Cubs and the Red Sox push and punish their bodies. They’ve only got a short couple of months to get in shape for those hot summer games.

It’s too late once you step onto the field, take your positions, and hear the umpire shout “play ball” (by the time this is printed, Opening Day will be over). Sensational defensive plays and rigorous base running only happen if Spring Training has been adhered to.

What’s Spring Training like? Well, you want to avoid certain foods. There is an old tradition in the church that sleek souls go with slim bodies. And gluttony is, after all, one of the seven deadly sins. Right. Baseball managers agree. They want their players (but not necessarily themselves) in trim form.

Then hours. When in training, you’ve got to get enough sleep. No late, late shows or the I-just-want-to-finish-one-more-chapter excuse. It’s hard to hit the long ball or go the extra ...

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