A major winter storm is raging in the Midwest. Heavy lake-effect snow is expected around the Great Lakes. Snow is possible across the High Plains. Snow and wind will converge on New England. The groundhog saw his shadow.
But that's OK because there are places where temperatures are in the 70s, where grass is growing, where the sun remembers to shine. There are places in Florida and Arizona where grown men are donning tight pants and sunglasses, where the most treasured words of February are uttered: "Pitchers and catchers report."
Wintry blues be forewarned, cold weather take a back seat, unstable universe prepare to be righted - baseball season is upon us, a most wonderful time of the year.
Baseball means spring. Even though some games - high school and college games, in particular - take place in not-too-pleasant weather, the bulk of America's pastime earns the players the nickname of "boys of summer." The smell of freshly mown grass wafts through the stands as fans gather to honor the springtime rituals. Toss in hot dogs, roasted peanuts and cold drinks. Early season fans choose between finding a seat offering the best view of the action or a location conducive to soaking up winter-ridding rays of sunshine.
One more time
Baseball means a fresh start, new beginnings, another opportunity. Just as Mother Nature gives us all another chance with the renewal of life at springtime, baseball teams and their fans are awash in optimism.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays lost their last four games of the 2006 season to secure the worst record in Major League Baseball with only 61 wins vs. 101 losses. However, they begin the new season tied for first place and with fans hoping for a turnaround performance and a pennant-winning year. The team signed Akinori Iwamura, a star from Japan, in an effort to take a step in that direction. Such a move is all that fans need to give a team another chance.
Take the Detroit Tigers. They had averaged 100 loses over the previous five seasons and had not won half of their games in any season in 12 years. Still, Tigers fans entered 2006 thinking, hoping, that "this may be our year." In one of the game's great turnarounds, Detroit went from the skids of professional baseball to winning the American League.
Baseball means never giving up hope. The clock never beats a baseball team. In a football game and even a basketball game, there may come a point where one team must face the fact that not enough time remains to win the game. Points can be scored only so fast, even if the other team falls apart. On the diamond, however, there are no such artificial limitations.
On Aug. 5, 2001, the Cleveland Indians gave up 12 runs to the Seattle Mariners in the first three innings in a game at Cleveland. Midway through the seventh inning, the Indians trailed 14-2. They added three runs in the bottom of the seventh and four more in the eighth but still started their last at-bat trailing 14-9. Not only that, but also two of the first three batters were put out.
Down to their last out, trailing by five runs and with one runner on, the Indians came up with a double, a walk, two singles and a gametying triple. They could not get the winning run the last 90 feet, but held on until the 11th inning when three straight singles sealed the improbable comeback.
Baseball is … well … it's what a person makes it. To the casual observer, it is boring and slow. To the person who follows it carefully, baseball is the recreational embodiment of life. You do your best, you don't give up and you try again next year.
Steve Martaindale is a self-syndicated columnist. Write him at penmanmail-steve@yahoo. com.