Does anyone else find it hard to believe that spring training has arrived already? The most beautiful words in the English language for many people were being spoken throughout Florida and Arizona on Tuesday, as pitchers and catchers reported to camps all across baseball.
The local teams of note enter spring training from unfamiliar directions this year. The Orioles have to learn how to deal with expectations in the wake of their shocking playoff appearance in 2012, while the Phillies are flying under everyone’s radar after an almost-as-surprising sub-par season.
Excitement for the return of summer’s game is sky-high in the Delaware Valley thanks to the lack of success by any other local pro team. The Flyers look like a mess on ice, the Sixers seem broken and the Eagles just announced that the Michael Vick experience will last at least one more nauseating year. Starved for something to cheer for, First State sports fans are hoping baseball will provide it.
The storylines this spring are simple enough.
For the Phillies, the main questions center on health and the outfield. Can Ryan Howard and Chase Utley become productive middle of the lineup threats at the plate again? Will Roy Halladay bounce back after an injury-plagued season, or are his top-of-the-rotation days done and buried? And who the hell is going to get on base that plays outfield for the Phillies in 2013?
For Baltimore, the young talent is undeniable, but the queries surrounding the Orioles organization are more philosophical. Will his team grow tired of Buck Showalter’s taxing managerial style? Was all of Baltimore’s close-game and extra-innings success last season a fluke?
Meanwhile, every team will have to deal with the distraction that is the World Baseball Classic. Does it affect players’ preseason routines? Most argue no, but in a game built on repetition, it sure seems like it would have to.
Either way, it sure is nice to have baseball back in everyone’s lives again. It means warm weather is coming soon, and an occasional win for one of the local teams might be on its way as well. We all know how difficult those are to come by these days.