Game on

This is it. The time is at hand. As foretold by the prophets, a great event is about to transpire that will signal the end of a Great Evil. The season for celebration is within our grasp. The glory is ours to seize.

Pitchers and catchers report.

A baseball, in case you need a reminder.

A baseball, in case you need a reminder.

In the entire, vast universe of sports there are few moments so heavy with anticipation as the beginning of Spring Training. Maybe the opening of an Olympic games comes close (even when one of the Giant Flaming Doobies fails its hydraulics check). But that’s about the only thing I can think of. Nothing else, really, is in the same class with baseball’s hallowed First Workout.

From the depths of winter, Spring Training salvages a renewal of hope. Every team is a contender. Every ballcap-topped face is a potential phenom, a Career Year waiting to happen, a World Series MVP in waiting. Every cleated foot that claws the infield dirt or shreds the outfield grass portends the demise of that hated season of cold despair and gives life to the promise of summer’s sun-drenched embrace.

Spring Training is the sporting world’s physical manifestation of one of humanity’s most enduring and admirable qualities: Hope. At least until the 25-man roster is finalized, every baseball fan can – at least in some fashion – find a way to maintain hope for the season to come. This year, the expensive free agent won’t totally fizzle, last year’s biggest flop will redeem himself, the pennant race will stay interesting at least through August and the team’s Radio Color Guy won’t get busted at the airport with a ziploc full of snop.

Soon enough, Spring Training games will begin. It’s time for me to plan the pilgrimmage. There’s a ballpark out there with a real, live, green outfield. It’s just waiting for me to sit as close to the field as physically possible and breathe in the moist, heady aroma of freshly-cut ballfield grass: Grass that isn’t frost-bitten grey or brown, sun-soaked grass perfumed with the memories of a thousand ballgames, a hundred golf courses and 20 years traipsing the now-distant athletic fields of my youth.

Time for cold and rain and aching joints to pass. Summer beckons.

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