Friday, March 5, 2010

One Sure Sign of Spring - Baseball's Back...

This article was first published in the March 5th edition of Main Street Week - page 5, and is reprinted here with permission from the editors. Drop by to have a look at a great community newspaper or sign up and have Main Street Week delivered right to your inbox every Friday.

The groundhogs warned us in early February that six more weeks of winter was on the way, although I must say, with so many television lights and cameras on them, how can they not see their shadow? Looking out my window at the piles of snow that have accumulated throughout the winter it is hard to believe that spring is right around the corner. There is one positive sign that the warmer spring weather is near; full workouts have begun in Florida and Arizona as the thirty teams in Major League Baseball prepare for the 2010 season.

The pitchers and catchers were the first to report to camp on February 17th and the full compliment of players arrived a week later. With all-stars and regulars assured of a roster spot, rookies looking for a trip to the big leagues and previously unknown players invited to camp hoping to earn a contract, this is an exciting time for baseball fans. It is the time of year when every team thinks they have a chance to compete for the World Series, that is until the regular season gets started on April 4th and the challenges of the 162 game schedule begins.

Growing up in Lachute Quebec, Spring Training always held a special place for me. As the winter winds howled outside on a Sunday afternoon, the magic of radio could transport me to a sunny, warm afternoon in Palm Springs Florida. With Dave Van Horne calling the games, Expos hopefuls came to bat or took to the mound, working their way to opening day at the Olympic Stadium. As the snow drifted across the fields on our farm, the AM radio crackled and popped and my mind could drift away to another world; a world filled with green grass and sunshine.

With no team in Montreal, I have officially and perhaps begrudgingly, become a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. I never thought it could happen, but as the only MLB team left in Canada and with Alex Anthopoulos at the helm as the team’s new General Manager, a 32-year-old from Montreal, it is time to move on from the Expos. The challenge for Anthopoulos this year is to remain competitive, while at the same time, working many young prospects into the Jays line-up; not an easy task for any General Manager.

Entering a rebuilding season, the Jays will play an exciting brand of baseball this year with rising stars like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, along with some tremendous young arms on their revamped pitching staff. While they will be in for a tough fight with the free-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League’s East Division, the Jays could surprise more then one baseball analyst this summer. As the “experts” make their pre-season picks, many are predicting that the Jays will struggle this year, but hard working squads can sometimes emerge from the middle of the standings to surprise a few of the favourites; playing with heart and soul can go a long way and result in some unexpected victories.

Some unfortunate news emerged from the Blue Jays prior to the start of Spring Training as the team announced that relief pitcher, author and Main Street supporter, Dirk Hayhurst, will start the year on the 60-day disabled list after exploratory surgery revealed a frayed labarum in his right shoulder. Expected to compete for a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen, Hayhurst must now wait for his shoulder to heal before he gets another shot at pitching in Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Don't forget, Hayhurst's book - The Bullpen Gospels, is in stores on March 30th. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for one of baseball’s nicest guys - Good luck Dirk!

A little closer to home, the Can-Am League’s season begins May 31st, with the 2009 league Champion Quebec Capitales at home to the new team in the league from Pittsfield Massachusetts. The Voice of Sport will bring plenty of Can-Am coverage and interviews to Main Street Week as the season gets underway. Have a great sports day everyone.

Photo by jdtornow on Flickr.

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