Today is the day. Today, spring training officially begins for the Pirates as pitchers and catchers report to Bradenton, Florida. Each player will be required to contact the team upon his arrival in Bradenton, with the initial workout scheduled for noon tomorrow.
A few weeks back, I described the excitement that I feel each year when I pick up a baseball for the first time. I do not know for sure, but I assume that amazing emotion is present in every Major League player when he first steps into the sunshine for spring training. It is a special day for the players, coaches and team executives. It is just as special for the fans, especially those worn down emotionally by wintry conditions and years of losing. Over the past couple of days, I have spent several hours braving snowstorms in my commute to and from work. Early this morning, as I passed a thermometer on my way into the office, it displayed a temperature of two degrees. Yet I felt warm as I daydreamed about casually playing long-toss on a sunny Florida field.
It does not matter that the Pirates are returning virtually the same team that went 68-94 a year ago. It does not matter that we have not had a winning season since I was eight-years-old. Today is the day to dream of a fluke, dream season, allowing us to be competitive in 2008. Why not?
At the end of the workday, I grabbed my coat and headed toward the car. As I walked outside, I was blinded by bright sunlight. It was a comforting sign, one that reminded me that the cold will one day come to an end. Remember that if you are a Pirates fan. The cold will one day come to an end.