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Spring: When Everything Grows, Including Hope and Doubt

"Don't tell me about the world.  Not today.  It's springtime and they're knocking baseballs around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball."    — Pete Hamill

On Wednesday February 26th twelve big league teams will play baseball on the green, damp grass of six diamonds in Florida and Arizona. And a direct line will be reconnected to 2014 from the far distant past.

I believe it's part of string theory.

That long, imaginary line begins 145 years ago when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team in America.

Even before that the string stretches farther back into the historic culture of the United States–  tied around New York City and the Elysian Fields of New Jersey in the 1840s, and ultimately winding its way into the campgrounds and military prisons of the Civil War.

Then jump to 1869 as the game of baseball became a fledging institution when the Cincy Red Stockings came to be in the State of Ohio.

Modern day Spring Training has various starting points: when the pitchers and catchers first report to camp; when a number of big league squads play pre-pre-season games with certain college teams. Or maybe when the first batter takes the first swing in the first batting practice.

But this coming Wednesday is my personal Spring Training Opening Day. And nothing will keep me from it.

At precisely 1:05 PM ET on Wednesday February 26, 2014, in the humid heat of Florida the reformed Detroit Tigers and newly extended young turks of the Atlanta Braves will play a baseball game. So to will the Blue Jays and the Phillies, as well as the Yankees and Pirates.

Two hours later, in the In the balmy 82 degree dry heat of Arizona, six more teams will face off in three separate games. Including the San Francisco Giants facing the Oakland Athletics in Scottsdale. A moment of magic and internal delirium.

Unless I snag a winning lottery ticket between now and 10:05 AM Pacific Time next Wednesday, on that day I will be tuned to some cable channel with a Harp's Lager in one hand and a steaming hot brat covered in onions and thick grainy mustard in the other. A napkin? Maybe, if I'm feeling all tidy and formal. But don't count on it.

For the 100th time I will review just how the San Francisco Giants might make this work in 2014. The variables, the what-ifs, and the big picture. Like any good American I will be hopeful and then I will be racked with doubt.   

That is the precise instant when the 2014 baseball season becomes real. Like the taste of garlic fries or the beautiful smell of wet green grass. That is the start of Spring. And baseball.

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