Fresh cut grass…warm sun rays…Arizona and Florida heat…the sweet smell of cotton candy and the crunch of peanut shells…”Hot Dogs Here,” the pop of balls hitting leather gloves…the Crack of bats hitting the white round ball…the red laces flying through the warm crisp air…the sight of players doing exercises, stretching, running drills…the sound of coaches yelling orders to the players…the laughter and cracking jokes from the players…star studded talent…long shot rookies and free agents…the epiphany that strikes us between the eyes every year at this time.
That’s right baseball fans, Spring Training has arrived. Spring Training is to Baseball as Training Camp is to Football. All of the offseason transactions and team news comes to the forefront. Every team is even at this point. All of these teams believe that they have a shot to win it all. Of course, this is where the long journey begins. Players coming back from injury. Other players trying to come back from down seasons. Teams trying to return to the playoffs for consecutive teams as well as teams trying to make it back to the top.
The San Francisco Giants are the defending champions. And the Giants won this World Series despite a down season from Tim Lincecum. The Detroit Tigers are the toast of the American League. Justin Verlander is ready for another CY Young run. The Yankees as always are dealing with drama and controversy. The Washington Nationals are dealing with their first taste of high expectations. The Phillies are trying to make one last run with the core that continues to age. The Mets are hoping that all of the youngsters can put it together and win some ball games. The Atlanta Braves are ready to go to the next level. The Saint Louis Cardinals are looking to get back on top despite Chris Carpenter being on the injury list. The Blue Jays are hoping that their offseason deals turn golden. Just like every year…there are so many plots and sub plots as we head into another season of Major League Baseball.
Spring Training is a time for hope. It is a time to bond and make friendships. It is a time for veterans to work with youth and show them what it takes and how it is done. It’s a time where managers can play around with lineups to form the best possible offensive threat. It’s a time where pitchers build up their stamina for another long haul. Spring Training is a time for fans to get close to their favorite players. It’s a time for kids to get to meet their idols. It’s a time for baseball players and fans alike to get back into the Baseball Routine. Don’t forget, after this long spring there is 162 game sprint to the finish line. May the best team win.
As another Spring Training approaches, you cannot help but wonder which teams will play up to their talent, which teams will have disappointing seasons, which teams will rise from the ashes and surprise everyone, and which teams will falter due to season defeating injuries. Yes that horrible scary word injuries. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game and every year the injury bug hits a new team. Injuries do not discriminate. Injuries do not play favorites. Last year was no exception. The Phillies struggled as their ace Roy Halladay endured an injury plagued season. The Cardinals struggled with numerous player injuries. The list goes on and on. But sometimes teams must put these injuries behind them and ride the hot arm or bat of that surprise ace in the hole.
As this 2013 Season begins…there are always different story lines and question marks. There are also analysts who predict how the season will progress. In my next piece, I will give my early picks for how this season will round out, teams that will make the playoffs, players that will lead their league in various categories, etc. It should be fun. And even though I am a Phillies fan, I promise to be unbiased in my elections. Till next time, enjoy the best time of the year folks…spring training.