TAMPA, Fla. — Remember that part in “Avatar,” when the group of Navi go to the mountaintop to bond with their dinosaur looking bird creatures? In spring training, baseball writers have a similar ritual, and the bond can be just as strong.
Except instead of dinosaurs, we bond with rental cars, which is why I’m writing about a Hyundai.
During the regular season, I’m mostly indifferent about rental cars because even if I’m stuck with a bad one, I’m driving it for four days at most. No biggie.
But it’s different in spring training, especially when you’re covering spring training in Florida, where drives to opposing ballparks for Grapefruit League can be as long as three hours. That’s unlike spring training in Arizona, where most games are played within a 30-minute radius near Phoenix.
Not so much in Florida. There’s nothing like a drive across Alligator Alley to remind you that rental car selection is crucial.
I lucked out my first year when I covering the Orioles. The lady behind the counter happened to be Filipino. Instant upgrade, baby.
“How about a convertible?”
The car choice worked out well except for the few times I had to make the drive from Fort Lauderdale to Port St. Lucie. Somewhere in between the two cities is a massive landfill. And the few times I had the pleasure of driving past the site, it happened to be garbage burning day. Fun stuff, especially with the top down.
Last season, I got some weird mini-SUV, a Chevy of some kind I believe. Though I probably would have been better with another convertible, this car wasn’t bad.
But this season, my luck ran out.
A few months ago, I tried to convince by boss that for another $100 or so, I could be driving around Florida in a Mustang. Swing and a miss.
So I did the responsible thing and booked “economy,” or whatever term Avis uses for “shit-ass car.” I walked up to the window hoping that maybe I’d catch a little bit of luck. But alas, there was not a Filipino in sight.
With no good signs in my corner, I rolled the dice. And it came up Hyundai.
The photo shows my new pal in all her glory. I’ve only been around Tampa a bit, but already I can tell that she and I are going to threaten to do some sideswiping this spring, because this model leads the league in funky blind spots. With every merge, an adventure!
There is some good news: It turns out that the Hyundai comes with USB port, which means I’ll at least be able to play music with my iPhone. It’s a fantastic luxury for those 2 1/2 drives.
As for the rest of the car, I’m not a big fan. In fact, when another writer friend told me he got a Nissan Versa, I secretly felt jealous. That must have been some sort of first: a guy actually jealous of another guy’s Versa.
But it’s too late to switch now. Like the Navi and their dinosaur birds, the rental car and I have bonded. In the spring, you only get one. No turning back.
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