Unlike any other professional sport, baseball always seems to have times during the season that triggers hope in the eyes of a fan. One of those times are upon us.
In the middle of February the excitement began when the 30 Major League franchises headed for Arizona and Florida. If you are like me the turning point of Spring Training occurs somewhere around St. Patrick’s Day. At that point you are either tired of games that don’t count and are played mostly by minor league prospects, or you want to see where teams make their final cuts.
This leads me to my point. Here we are on March 29th. Teams are starting to wrap up competition in both the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. The exodus from Arizona and Florida has begun in advance of Sunday’s national openers.
What is always intriguing to me about this weekend is the scheduling. This is the weekend when the Blue Jays test the market in Montreal to see if there will eventually be a return of baseball to French Canada. This year’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The US Army and Naval academies will be playing host to pre-season action this weekend. The Mets visit West Point on Friday afternoon to play a game against Army. The Red Sox and Nationals will break camp together after tomorrow’s game in Ft. Myers. Next stop is the Nation’s Capital for a game at Nationals Park, and then it’s off to Annapolis and the Naval Academy on Saturday.
The United States Naval Academy will host the Red Sox and Nationals this Saturday. West Point will host the Mets on Friday.
The American League Champion Indians will visit Chase Field in Phoenix for a two game series with the Diamondbacks. It only took 108 years for me to say this, but the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs broke camp today! Next stop on the way back to the Friendly Confines will be Houston. The Astros wrapped up their inaugural stint in West Palm Beach this afternoon with a 5-5 tie with the Marlins. The Astros host the defending champs for a two game series at Minute Maid Park tomorrow and Friday. Starting Sunday, the Marlins and Rays have Florida all to themselves again (same goes for the Diamondbacks in Arizona).
And finally, this is traditionally the weekend to “soft open” a new ballpark. The Yankees will head to suburban Atlanta to test out Sun Trust Park, the new home of the Braves.
Hope springs eternal after these final exhibition matchups. The Yankees and Rays open things for real on Sunday afternoon, followed by the Giants and D-Backs. Sunday night the Cubs, yes the Cubs open the defense of their crown in, of all places, St. Louis against their arch rivals!
Just a program note, my next blog will be a two-part preview of the Major League 2017 season. Part 1 will be my Sunday blog and it will conclude on Wednesday.