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For the Atlanta Braves, This Season Just FEELS Different

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - MARCH 31:  In this handout photo provided by Disney, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox sits in the dugout at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex prior to the start of his final game at the complex's baseball stadium on March 31, 2010 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  Cox is retiring as Braves manager following the 2010 season, and has trained the Braves each spring at Walt Disney World Resort since the sports complex opened in 1997. The Braves faced the Houston Astros in their final spring training home game of 2010 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by David Roark/Disney via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
Andrew LoveContributor IApril 6, 2010

The air is sticky sweet in Atlanta.

Thick with the buzz from a thawed-out spring, this summer breaks entry to a group of men who will have the inhabitants of this great city by the heartstrings.

This collection of great men, some young (too young to go to the bar, in fact) and some old (old enough to call it quits at 68), will take Atlanta deep into September and maybe, just maybe, show the four-year starved city what October baseball feels like again.

The Atlanta Braves are notorious for having fair-weather fans. It's almost down to an exact science when you view the team's attendance records and correlate them with win-loss column.

Usually, the crowd makes it out to Turner Field for Opening Day and a few other April games, but then, once May crawls in, they vanish like moths who just had the light turned off.

Gone are 50,000 crowds. In comes a quiet day at the Ted where the opposing team's fans are heard over the pitiful tomahawk chop of 30,000 (tops).

But this season, it just feels different. No, it feels better. After 15 long years of no World Series rings, the stars in Atlanta may have all aligned.

Now, I'm probably getting ahead of myself. After all, the team is only 1-0. But I feel like a giddy schoolgirl around her teenage heartthrob. As of right now, I feel like Braves could go 162-0.

What is it about this year that has everyone so wrapped up?

For starters, Bobby Cox. The longtime manager of the Bravos says he's hanging it up after this season. For a man who keeps on climbing the list of managerial greats, surpassing not only win records but also ejection records, what better way to send him off into the sunset then on the back of a world championship?

Not only do the PLAYERS want to play hard for the man this year, but the FANS want to come out and watch them do it as well. He's bringing the crowd as the old-time grandfather of this great club.

You've heard all the stories about Jason Heyward: the monster home runs in spring training, the crushing of car windows, and the overall "maturity" of this young man. His legend will grow with or without my spending 10 lines gushing over him, so let's just leave it at this: Jason Heyward is bringing the youth movement back to Atlanta.

Of course, there are other things to watch this season. Will Chipper Jones rebound and hit over .300 again? Will he stay for another year? How will Troy Glaus work out at first, and will Melky Cabrera prove to be worth the Javier Vazquez trade? Will Brian McCann finally capture an MVP after proving time after time that he attacks the ball the way a hungry dog attacks a piece of meat?

Finally, will this Braves pitching staff, one of the top in the majors, bring us back to the days of the '90s, when NOBODY wanted to play the Braves regardless of who took the mound?

The story lines are plentiful. What it does for us is give the fans a reason to cheer again.

The season feels the way a great baseball season should. Here's to 2010.

This is beyond destiny.

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