Baseball season is finally back, and over the next two weeks, players will gather from across the country and begin the long journey with dreams of postseason glory.
While Spring Training may seem like a random hodge podge of exhibition games between players who will likely not see the major leagues, it is actually a carefully scripted preparation for the toils of a 162-game season.
As managers attempt to gauge their rosters, assessing young talent while allowing their veterans to adequately warm up, the next few slides will highlight dates every baseball fan should have marked on their calendars.
A date long anticipated by baseball enthusiasts, pitchers and catchers begin showing up for spring practice on Monday, Feb. 11. They will work tirelessly to fine tune everything from delivery angles to pickoff moves to covering first on ground balls.
Along with pitchers and catchers, many injured players will report to continue their rehabilitation and work with team doctors to prepare for the season.
The exception to this requirement is the players taking part in the World Baseball Classic. Those players have already begun working with their respective teams and will miss the majority of Spring Training as they represent their countries.
Four days after the pitchers and catchers show up, everyone else begins to funnel into training facilities in Arizona and Florida. Minor leaguers who garnered invites show up wide-eyed and nervous while veterans settle into routines perfected over years of practice.
Again, players involved in the World Baseball Classic will be absent, instead practicing with their teams during the time most players are working with teammates.
Much like the NBA's Olympics dilemma, many organizations question their players' participation in the Classic, as it presents more opportunities for injury, putting at risk their multi-million dollar contract. But the chance to represent one's country is too much for many to pass up.
On Feb. 22, at 1:05 p.m., the Detroit TIgers and Atlanta Braves will kick off the spring schedule with the first exhibition game of the year, with three other matchups scheduled for that day.
The next day, most of the other teams will begin their spring schedules and will play regularly from then, right up until March 30, the day before Opening Day.
At the same time, the WBC will be in pool play from March 2-8 and in the second-round elimination series until March 16. The Classic will play semi-final series in Tokyo, Japan, from March 8-12 and in Miami, Florida, from March 12-16.
The winners from each bracket will travel to San Francisco, California, to play a best-of-three championship series at AT&T Park from March 17-19.
Upon the conclusion of the Classic, all players will return to their teams for an abbreviated Spring Training and finalize roster spots for the beginning of the regular season. Many young players will pack their bags for minor league destinations, and managers will name opening-day starters and make final roster moves.
Ultimately, everyone is waiting for March 31. The Texas Rangers will travel to Houston, welcoming them to the American League West with an 8:05 p.m. first pitch.
The rest of baseball will begin April 1, with games beginning at 1:05 p.m., or April 2 starting at 3:10 p.m. The season will come to a close on Sunday, Sept, 29 with three 4:10 p.m. games in Arizona, Los Angeles and Seattle.
The 2013 World Series will commence on Wednesday, October 23.