DUNEDIN, Fla. - Spring training is an interminable slog at the best of times.
For players, fans, and media alike, the initial frisson of excitement over baseball's return subsides long before the fake games even start. The daily routine of perfunctory running and stretching and throwing and bullpen sessions and batting practice gets old pretty quick.
This year, to make matters worse, the unending saga that is the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has soured the collective mood across Florida and Arizona. Lingering resentment toward the Astros and frustration with the commissioner's office is turning the usually laid-back atmosphere of spring training somewhat tense.
Now more than ever, then, baseball needs a hero, someone who can cut through the rancor and the tedium if only for a few precious moments.
Caleb Joseph, it turns out, is that hero.
On Wednesday, the veteran catcher - whom the Toronto Blue Jays brought to camp as a non-roster invitee - provided what will undoubtedly be the highlight of 2020 spring training: a virtuosic air-drumming performance for his teammates at the Bobby Mattick Training Center, a session in which he nailed every single beat from Neil Peart's characteristically fill-heavy drum work in Rush's 1980 banger "The Spirit of Radio."
See the joy in his teammates' eyes? They're not thinking about illegal buzzers or Rob Manfred's ineffectual stewardship of the game. They're thinking, "This dude absolutely slaps." It's a stark departure from the spring-training norm: They're actually having fun.
"(I've been) playing drums, I'd say, 10 years," Joseph said Thursday in the Blue Jays' clubhouse at TD Ballpark. "(Been) playing the air drums for the past, probably, 25."
Joseph's love for Rush started well before that: when he was 12 years old and his uncle first introduced him to the iconic Canadian prog-rock group by playing "Vital Signs" on the stereo in his Honda Accord.
"I just thought it was the most amazing song of all time," Joseph said. "Then I was scooped in and, like many other Rush fans, you just kind of can't escape it."
Over the years, Joseph saw Rush perform "around eight times," and the 33-year-old even managed during his five seasons with the Baltimore Orioles to forge a relationship with Geddy Lee, the band's inimitable lead singer and a devoted Blue Jays fan who can often be spotted in the front row behind home plate at Rogers Centre.
As such, Joseph was "crushed" when Peart - who was the band's principal lyricist and whose incomparable drumming skills constituted Rush's signature - died in January, at age 67, from brain cancer.
"It ruined my week," he said. "I just thought Neil had arthritis, and then to find out he was battling brain cancer was just a crushing blow.
"So that was just as much of a tribute to Neil and the band as it was just to get the guys going yesterday."
It did, indeed, get the guys going. And you won't see anything cooler this spring.
Anyway, only 35 more sleeps until Opening Day.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.