For the past month baseball games have been played throughout Florida and Arizona as teams prepared for the beginning of the MLB regular season. After six grueling weeks spent doing drills and getting into shape, the Grapefruit League and Cactus League play ended yesterday.

Teams broke camp and began traveling to their destinations. There are always a few days from the end of Spring Training before Opening Day signifies the official start of baseball season. Traditionally, these days are filled with teams participating in exhibition games against various opponents.

The Arizona Diamondbacks through the years have used these days to stage one or two exhibition games at Chase Field. Some years the opponents have been Grapefruit League teams who are traveling from Florida to California to begin the regular season.

Sometimes the opponent is international such as a team from the World Baseball Classic or in the case of 2008 the Diamondbacks hosted the Sultanes de Monterrey from Mexico. This year the Diamondbacks will hold two games against the ever popular Chicago Cubs.

These exhibition games have several benefits. First the team donates the proceeds to these games to Diamondbacks Charities allowing the funds to flow to those less fortunate while entertaining the baseball fans in attendance.

The other primary benefit is that it allows the Arizona Diamondbacks a dress rehearsal for Opening Day. This allows the team to work out any of the kinks before the season actually begins. New concessionaires can work out the bugs and the game operations staff can evaluate how things are flowing before the festivities of Opening Day are upon them.

There is always an interesting dilemma surrounding these games from a player’s and coaches’ perspective. This gives them a few more opportunities to get ready for the regular season. This of course has to be weighed against the fact that a player may sustain an injury in what is basically a meaningless game.

By the mid-point of the game, most of the starters had been taken out of the game allowing some of the rookies and promising minor league players an opportunity to get into a game situation at Chase Field. Watching them during warm-ups some seemed in awe of their surroundings. Once they entered the game, they quickly became oblivious to their surroundings and the game was the same as they played in sandlots as kids.

For me, today was the first game I was able to watch from my new seat locations. It was a time to find the best route to the parking garage and map my path into Chase Field and ultimately to Section 132.

I cannot describe the feelings I had handing my ticket to the guest relations representative at the gates and making my way through the turnstiles. After what seemed like an eternity baseball had returned to Chase Field.

So while the schedule may say that today was just an exhibition, to a lot of baseball fans it was something much more. It was the beginning of what will be a journey that they will travel through the end of October when a new world champion will be crowned.