While my Denver public relations colleagues were spending time at the PRSA Western District Conference last weekend, I spent a few days in Florida taking in some Spring Training games with two of my favorite cousins.

Spring Training is a time for hope. Everyone is in a good mood. Everyone gets a fresh start. Managers are smiling, players are signing autographs and obscure Minor Leaguers are convinced they have a shot at making a big impression. Even Yankee and Red Sox fans are nice to each other. It’s warm, you’re near the beach, and you’re on vacation. What’s not to like?

Seems like everyone deserves a little Spring Training. We all need a break from the bad news and a little dose of sunshine. But sometimes life gets in the way. Mets fans, for example, are not too excited about Spring Training. For them, Florida is an endless month of back pain, twisted ankles, sore shoulders and mysterious diseases nobody else seems to come down with.  There’s the daily drama of the players they can no longer afford and the team owners facing a massive Madoff lawsuit. As the Mets get ready to celebrate their 50th anniversary, they are preparing to field their worst team in 50 years.  

Communities can use some Spring Training too. Take Ybor City, for instance, a Tampa area historic district where you can find a mixture of Cuban and Italian culture, vintage cigar factories and a lot of New Orleans flavor. In Ybor City, everything is a blend of different flavors. Cigar bars. Coffee bars. Pizza joints serving Cuban sandwiches.

Unfortunately, Ybor City has seen better days. Empty storefronts, empty restaurants, and a pervasive sense of resignation tell a less than hopeful story about a once thriving business and tourist district. The city fathers could sure use some good PR. They might start with a nice little spot at the end of the block called The Bricks of Ybor, where you can find strong coffee, good music, a friendly staff and a great happy hour.

Bricks is Ybor City in a nutshell. It’s young, hip, quirky, laid back, a little wild but not too full of itself, and it already has a well-established sense of the importance of tradition. It’s solid, like its name. You can hang out and use the free WiFi or come back later for movie night. It’s just what the area needs to bring in new life and new energy to a long neglected business district.    

Bricks represents the breath of fresh air that we all need to find in our lives and our work. Sometimes we go looking for it and sometimes we just stumble upon it. We all need a spark, the sort of excitement and hope that Spring Training brings baseball fans each season. Where we find it and how long we can hold on to it is up to us.