March Is A Great Time For Baseball
Every sports fan knows that March is a great month, with spring training and college baseball in full swing, the NCAA basketball tournament going on, and the Masters marking a tradition unlike any other. And February isn't so bad itself.
The sense of anticipation in February is palpable, as spring training camps open and players start to trickle in. Every day we get to see a few more faces in uniform and look forward to warm weather and a river of games.
So while I wouldn't call it the most wonderful time of the year, I do look forward to the roughly four weeks bridging February and March, when football officially goes away for awhile and baseball starts to emerge from hibernation. And here are a few of the reasons why:
The shock of brilliant greens:
The whites and grays of winter express the coolness of the season, and there's something to be said for that stark landscape. But when you see the first spring training field of the season—on television for the great majority of us—the shock of that blast of green to your eyes lets you know that baseball will be on the way soon. There's no other color quite like that, and it definitely sends an alert to your brain to get ready for spring training.
Old faces in new places:
It's always fun to get your first glimpse of a veteran who has changed teams in the offseason, to see what he looks like in his new uniform. There are the obvious ones, like Albert Pujols in Angels garb, but then there's always a surprise as well, when a veteran in the twilight of his career suddenly pops up in a random camp. The yearly Manny Ramirez appearance in a new uniform looks like it could become part of this tradition as well. The only downside of this is when things get sad, like seeing Willie Mays in a Mets uniform.
New faces in new places:
It's also fun to see prospects get their first experience in major league camps, as they get to trade their goofy minor league uniforms for the bright whites and iconic logos of their major league teams. The most recent example that I can remember really getting the Baseball America office excited was Jason Heyward two springs ago, when it became clear he was going to have a big rookie season.
Getting ready for fantasy drafts:
I call them drafts even though many of them are auctions, and let's be honest, if you're drafting instead of auctioning then you aren't even really trying. But seriously, the same optimism that buoys you as a fan of your favorite team also gives you hope that this is the year your fantasy team will come together, particularly in keeper leagues where you try to build from year to year. Watching a spring training game or reading a spring training report is that much more interesting when you feel like it's giving you a leg up on your fantasy league competition.
This is just the greatest thing ever invented for baseball fans. And while you can't watch live games until March, in February you can order or renew for the coming season, building the anticipation even more. If you aren't familiar with the concept of MLB.TV, in simplest terms it allows you to watch games on your computer. As the service has improved over the years, you can now watch on smartphones and tablets, as well as streaming to your television from your computer or another connected box like Apple TV or even an Xbox 360. There's nothing else like it.
Rolling out the Top 100 Prospects:
Our Top 100 Prospects list is the industry standard, in our humble opinion, but aside from the interest it generates, I like how it serves as a bridge from the end of prospect season to the beginning of baseball season. When we're lining up the guys on the list, we start to imagine what they'll be doing this season and try to figure out who will surge and who might fall flat. It's a world of possibilities!
College baseball season begins:
True baseball fans know that you don't have to wait until March or April to get your baseball fix. The college action starts in February, and again through the magic of technology you can actually follow the action even if you don't live in a college baseball hotbed. And of course if you read Aaron Fitt's coverage at BA.com you can be the most knowledgeable fan on your block.
Seeing players in the best shape of their lives:
Pitchers and catchers reporting creates the first opportunities for those who had down seasons last year to throw out spring training's top cliche, "I'm in the best shape of my life," or words to that effect. In a similar vein are the non-roster players invited to major league camps who are "just looking for an opportunity." Another reminder that during this time of year, hope springs eternal.
Bad spring training photos:
This is a new development, thanks to the advent of a camera with every smartphone and the widespread use of social media among reporters. We can all relate to the excitement of the beginning of spring training, so it's natural that reporters and fans want to give those who can't be there a taste of the spring training magic. But what you end up with is a lot of blurry, faraway shots of pitchers' fielding practice.