Football is over, basketball is halfway through the season, and hockey is picking up as well.
But what sport is just awakening once again, even though only its fanatic followers realize it? You wouldn’t know it here in Virginia, but in Florida and Arizona the temperature is rising, the grass is getting green, and this sport’s elites are reporting in to start the cycle of their season.
You probably know what I am talking about by now — Major League Baseball. If you have read my columns before, then you know this is what I wait for all year long.
To most, the New Year started about two months ago. To me, the start of spring training is when the year truly gets underway. For the next nine months, baseball consumes my life, and the New York Yankees are at the center of that obsession.
Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training a couple of weeks ago, and the position players began to soon follow, with a little over two weeks till the regular season begins.
Coming off their record 27th championship, the New York Yankees are hungry for more. Their fabled “core four” of shortstop Captain Derek Jeter, catcher Jorge Posada, pitcher Andy Pettitte and legendary closer Mariano Rivera all are back.
But there have been changes. Popular left-fielder Johnny Damon is gone, having reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $8 million.
To plug that gap, the Yankees went after and signed Tigers center-fielder Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees front office believes his lefty swing is perfectly suited to aim for Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch.
The biggest off-season news — certainly in terms of money—was the agreement between All-Star pitcher Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants, who came together on a two-year contract worth $23 million just one hour before Linceum was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing.
The Phillies, who lost to the Yankees in the World Series last year, also made some noise by letting their ace, Cliff Lee, go and bringing in longtime Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Roy Halladay, who knows his chances of winning a title up north are slim and wants to boost his chances of catching on with a Series champion.
I could predict the Yankees as repeat champions for 2010, but I’m going to resist. Instead, I’ll just say this: expect a great season.
With the Yankees defending their title, the Phillies trying to take it away, and every other team looking to play the dark horse of the spoiler, it should be a great ride.
Just thinking about it gets me pumped up. The green grass, the smell of hotdogs and popcorn, the crack of the bat, the flight of the ball, the fans roaring as a player slides home with the winning run.
As the commercial says: I live for this.
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