Friday, February 16, 2007

a fresh start

It's a great time of year to be a baseball fan. The weather is warming up, your team has made some key offseason moves, and everyone is tied for first. I first became a fan in 1987 while rooting for my hometown team, the San Francisco Giants. I read every single baseball book in my elementary school library and became fascinated by larger than life personalities with colorful nicknames like the 'Sultan of Swat', the 'Say Hey Kid', and the 'Yankee Clipper'. I sneaked a walkman to bed and either fell asleep disappointed or happy depending on the outcome of that night's game. It remains the only sport where the radio broadcast is just as enjoyable as the television broadcast.

I also like the team and individual aspects of the game. A pitcher relies on the players playing behind him to make plays and to score runs. Yet, at its core is the battle between the hitter making solid contact against a pitcher. There's also the little things about the game that just work. Ninety feet is the perfect distance between first and home since the speediest runner can still be thrown out when defense is played perfectly. That distance is as cool to me as closures. While the infield is of uniform dimension, the outfield can vary widely between stadium to stadium. A ball crushed to right-center will be an out in Pac Bell Park but a homer in practically every other stadium. While park designers may embellish these idiosyncacies, *cough Minute Maid Park hill*, there's no denying the beauty of the Old Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park.

The optimist in me believes the Giants can make a playoff push bolstered by their improved pitching. Zito will assume ace responsibilties and that new windup may give him that extra zip and movement. A seasoned Matt Cain, aka Bobby Hill, will have learned how to pitch, Noah Lowry might be able to fool hitters once more, and Matt Morris will be able to avoid that one big inning blowup he always has. The fifth starter, whether it is a renewed Russ Ortiz or rookie sensations Linceum or Sanchez will surprise the league by storm and Benitez will be in shape and less of a headcase.

On the offensive end, the old guys will be injury free. Barry Bonds will break Hank's record by early August so the team can concentrate on the playoff push and Dave Roberts will be that leadoff hitter we haven't had since Brett Butler. Rich Aurilia pounds 40 homers and shows Seattle fans why they once signed him to big bucks.

Its a great time to be a baseball fan. We're currently in first place.

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