Opening Day baseball is only a week away.
Let that sink in for a minute: There's only seven days until we can watch our beloved Baltimore Orioles play meaningful baseball games once again.
When the Orioles open the season in Tampa Bay next Tuesday, I'll be there. My dad and I are planning on making the drive from Orlando to attend our first Opening Day baseball game.
Of course, I'd much rather see an Opening Day at Camden Yards, being that it's the best ballpark in baseball, but beggars can't be choosers. When it comes down to it, attending a ballgame featuring your favorite team is one of the greatest things a fan can experience, regardless of the venue and the opponent.
Jason Hammel versus David Price. Needless to say, I'm assuming here, but that's the safe bet for the starting pitching matchups at Tropicana Field on April 2nd. It should be a well-pitched game from both sides, and hopefully the Birds will be able to one-up the reigning AL Cy Young winner and begin their trek to win the division on a positive note.
That's something else special about this season: The Baltimore Orioles are entering it as a legitimate threat to win the division, or at the very least, compete for a playoff spot.
After a surprising 93-win campaign in 2012 that included falling two games short of taking the division from the New York Yankees, beating the mighty Texas Rangers in the Wild Card Game and forcing a Game 5 with the Yanks in the ALDS, hopes are high in Birdland this time around.
Players like Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters are looking to build on strong seasons, while youngster Manny Machado plans on becoming an irreplaceable cog in the O's machine. Pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman tried to force manager Buck Showalter's hand in spring training, and Gausman still hasn't been ruled out of being included on the Opening Day roster.
There's plenty of be excited about in Baltimore. The AL East is a division that seems to be largely balancing out, with the Yankees getting older and more injury-prone, the Boston Red Sox trying to bounce back from their worst season in 40 years, the Tampa Bay Rays always having to build from within on a low budget and lacking offensive pop and the Toronto Blue Jays having a lot to prove with some new, flashy acquisitions.
This is the opportune time for the O's to capitalize on an unstable division, and if they play with the same heart that they did last season, it shouldn't be much of a problem. A top bullpen in the game; a young starting rotation that's deep and growing; a lineup that believes in their ability to stay in any ballgame against any top pitcher.
Showalter has completely changed the culture and mindset within the Orioles organization. This team believes in itself, and for the first time in a long time, the fans believe that the team can beat any opponent at any time.
It's going to be a fun year in Birdland. It will be hard for the team to top the magic of the 2012 season unless they bring home a World Series trophy. And hey, that's completely possible, so who knows what will happen.
All I know is that the season starts in one week. And that I'm going to be there. (Look for me on TV, won't you? I'll likely be out in the left field seats! You may see me when Wieters rips a homer that way.)
I'm stoked. It's been a long offseason, but the wait is finally about to pay off.