Cactus League Spring Training – Let the Games Begin

After all of the excitement of the Hot Stove season and the never ending debates as to what moves the Arizona Diamondbacks should have made, it is now time to see what a difference a year has made.

The long dark days of the off-season are now behind us. Pitchers and catchers have reported and begun their throwing sessions. Position players have arrived and begun dusting off the bats to take a few swings.

Drills have been done and the training room is filled with players trying to get over the feelings of rust that always come in the first few days of practice. Reporters line up to gather quotes while players and coaches recount all the baseball clichés they have ever heard. Fans line the fences hoping their favorite player will stop and sign an autograph.

All of these things lead up to today. It is the official opening day of Spring Training in the Cactus League. Oh sure there was one game yesterday where the Oakland Athletics laid waste to the San Francisco Giants but that was more of a prequel than the actual start to the spring season.

Today sees a full suite of games involving all 15 members that make up the Cactus League. With the beginning of spring training games there are several stories that fans in Arizona will be following for the next five weeks.

How will the new look Seattle Mariners come together after a busy off-season that saw them retool to challenge the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Will the Angels be able to regroup after losing several key pieces of their AL West winning team?

Have the San Francisco Giants brought in enough offense to match their strong pitching staff? How will the change of ownership led by Nolan Ryan affect the Texas Rangers? Will Kansas City ace Zach Greinke be able to match his dominating form from last season?

Can the Cleveland Indians be competitive after trading away several important pieces? Will the Milwaukee Brewers be able to overtake the NL Central with their new pitching staff and potent offense? Can the Chicago Cubs rebound from a disappointing season last year and will this finally be their year?

Do the Chicago White Sox have all the pieces to bring them the AL Central crown? How will the McCourt’s divorce proceedings impact the Los Angeles Dodgers and is this the final year of Mannywood?

Will Ben Sheets be healthy enough to bring leadership and winning to the bay area and the Oakland Athletics? Will this be the final year for Adrian Gonzalez in San Diego or can the Padres rebuild quickly enough to be competitive?

With the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks moving to a new Spring Training complex in Scottsdale next season what kind of support will they receive this year in Tucson?

And the newest Cactus League member, the Cincinnati Reds, who begin playin a new stadium in Goodyear; will they be competitive and do they now have the pitching and defense that can make them contenders in the NL Central?

With a brilliant blue sky dotted with an occasional white cloud the players will run out onto the groomed fields and winter will officially be over. The smells of fresh cut grass and roasting hot dogs will fill the air and remind us all how much we love the game of baseball and our patience will have paid off.

Finally after a long four months, we will hear those words we have been longing for, “Play Ball!”

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