Oh, what a day!
To me, the beginning of Spring Training is the baseball equivalent of Thanksgiving. The weather is changing. It is a day to look back (or forward) and be thankful.
Most of all, it signals the start of something.
Sure, Thanksgiving only signals the true start to the holiday shopping season, whereas pitchers and catchers reporting means that Opening Day is only weeks away.
The months spent dreaming about summer and the perfect season are quickly approaching.
Outside of actually having the opportunity to attend Spring Training, things don't get much better for a baseball fan.
If you are only recently starting to check out my blog, then check out my awards from the 2007 season.
Here is a team-by-team "What to Look Out For" during Spring Training 2008...
Anaheim Angels: Everyone has named them the class of the West, but I worry about the age of their stars.
Baltimore Orioles: Keep an eye out for Brian Roberts. Its very likely that he is on his way out of town, which should keep Tim at MLB Trade Rumors busy.
Boston Red Sox: The champs are looking to repeat. With that, there are questions surrounding the health of Curt Schilling. Does this open the door for Lester or Buchholz to prove they are ready for the big stage?
Chicago White Sox: Personally, I would love to have a camera settle in on the ChiSox outfield during a fly ball drill.
Cleveland Indians: Shapiro brought back the same team and has his focus set on re-upping the Big Man.
Minnesota Twins: Watch as Liriano makes his way back from Tommy John surgery. I'm interested to see how reliant he is on his devastating slider and how much pressure he puts on himself to be the man in Minnesota.
New York Yankees: The Bombers return with essentially the same squad that lost in the ALDS to Cleveland. The Rodriguez ticker has expired; all that is left is to see what happens at first base.
Tampa Bay Rays: The baby Rays have a new look, a young and impressive top three in their rotation and a deep bullpen. My pick to surprise baseball and make the playoffs.
Texas Rangers: I know its not fair, but I've already ruled out this club. But let's see if they made the right choice on Hamilton.
Toronto Blue Jays: One last shot before division rivals' farm systems are major league ready. Keep an eye on Vernon Wells' attempt to justify his contract.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Statistically, they had no right to be in the playoffs. With their youth, they should make a reasonable argument to prove the "stats guys" wrong.
Chicago Cubs: Still spending money and still looking to be sold. Why not Mark Cuban?
Cincinnati Reds: They are preparing themselves for a Dusty Baker-led season by bringing in mediocre veterans to block the paths of top prospects.
Colorado Rockies: Was 2007 luck? Or is this a beginning of a dynasty? Rob McQuown chimes in.
Florida Marlins: Another rebuild? How long before the next championship?
Houston Astros: It looks like they should be able to hit, but who will step up in the rotation other then Oswalt?
Los Angeles Dodgers: When are they going to let the young talent take over? Why does this team keep signing veterans? Or is this the beginning of a plan to move some of the young talent for top notch veterans?
Milwaukee Brewers: Watch for Ryan Braun's transition to the outfield. He is young and athletic, but reading balls will be a little bit different.
Philadelphia Phillies: The returning champs in the East do not need any distractions, so what happens with the Ryan Howard contract situation?
Pittsburgh Pirates: Another terrible year on the horizon. How many players are axed in Neal Huntington's building process?
San Diego Padres: After losing in the wild card game playoff, can this team bounce back?
San Francisco Giants: Without Barry, is this team doomed? The team had a 43% winning percentage when Bonds played and a 47% when he sat out.
St. Louis Cardinals: Does highly touted prospect Colby Rasmus show enough in Spring to make the club for Opening Day?
Washington Nationals: What will this team do with all of their depth? Who stays and who goes?
With that, enjoy Spring Training, and check back, as I am going full throttle this season.
And for fun, it would be neat if everyone who reads this could fill out a player card. Batter's Box Interactive has an interesting way they keep track of those who contribute to the website. I figured, what better way to kick off the real new year then to make our very own player card. So here's mine...
RP - Long Reliever - #4 Brandon Heikoop
Resides: Niagara Falls, Canada
Major League Comparison to Little League Career: Steve Dalkowski
Favorite Team: Cleveland Indians
Favorite Player: Ryan Garko (current), Matt Williams (all-time)
Best Game Attended: 10/05/2007 - Indians v. Yankees at Jacobs Field, Fausto Carmona, 9 innings pitched, finished off the game with a K to Rodriguez
Baseball Book: "Winners" by Dayn Perry
Favorite Play in Baseball: Strike 'em out, throw 'em out
Favorite Ballpark: Dunn Tire Park, Fenway
Striding-To-The-Plate Music: "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta" - Geto Boys
When He's In The Box: Reader/Researcher
When He's Out of The Box: Student
Three Unshakable Baseball Beliefs: Chew beats spits; "Voluntary" reporting to Spring Training; science creates competition.