Thursday, March 31, 2011

Baseball is back!

It's finally here baseball fans, the start of the 2011 big league baseball season.

The season begins today with the Detroit Tigers facing the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, with Justin Verlander of the Tigers facing C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees in the American League Opener.

In the National League, the tradition of the Cincinnati Reds and Opening Day continues as the Reds take on fellow N.L. Central Division foes, the Milwaukee Brewers.

In other games today the Atlanta Braves traveling to our Nations capital to face the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles of Anaheim will be in Kansas City to take on the Royals, the St. Louis Cardinals are hosting the San Diego Padres, and the nigh concludes with the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants playing in Chavez Ravine against their most hated rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen." -- Joe DiMaggio

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...the number 11

As Opening Day is less than 24 hours away, we have reached the #11 in our look back at baseball and the numbers that make it so special.

#11, in baseball...

Toby Harrah of the Texas Rangers, catcher Don Slaught of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Minnesota Twins Chuck Knoblach.

#11 is the 1995 National League MVP, Barry Larkin of the Cincinnati Reds, and Jim Fregosi of the California Angels.

The Nationals 3rd baseman Ryan Zimmerman wears #11, as does the Yankees Brett Gardner, and Jimmy Rollins, the 2007 N.L. MVP.

The Hall of fame is well represented by the number 11, with the great screw ball pitcher of the New York Giants, Carl Hubbell, and the ChiSox terrific shortstop, Luis Aparicio.

The #11 was worn by the Seattle Mariners Edgar Martinez, arguably the best designated hitter in baseball history,

Garry Sheffield, Jeff Kent, Hal McRae, Tim McCarver, and Royce Clayton all wore #11 in their big league careers.

#11 means more to me than any other baseball number, because it was the number worn by my hero, Detroit Tigers catcher Bill Freehan.

Freehan was a bonus baby, signed out of the University of Michigan, where he played both baseball and football.

When Freehan left Michigan for the Tigers, he held the single season Big Ten record for batting average, hitting .585 in 161. As of 2010 that record still stands.(Big Ten record book)

                                                          Highest batting average:
                                         .585 Bill Freehan, C, MICH, (24-for-41), 1961

Bill Freehan came up to the Tigers briefly in 1961, wearing uniform #19, and then after a season in the minors he came back to Detroit in 1963, and he would never leave.

For the most part of his14 big league seasons Bill Freehan was the best catcher in the American League, is not in all of baseball.

Freehan was the first catcher to win five consecutive Gold Gloves, from 1965-69, and when he retire his .993 fielding percentage was the best in the history of the baseball, and it's a record that would stand for 20+ years after his final year in baseball.

An 11 time All-Star, Freehan collected 1,591 hits and smacked 200 home runs in the big leagues, and was a member of the Tigers World Series Championship team in 1968.

In game 5 of the '68 series, the Tigers were losing to the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0, and were down 3 games to 1 when Freehan cemented his reputation as the best defensive catcher in baseball.

Lou Brock had doubled leading off the Cards 5th inning, and as he tried to score the 4th run of the afternoon for the Cards, Freehan received left fielder Willie Horton's throw, and blocking home plate, tagged out Brock, who tried to score standing up, and keeping the Tigers in the game. 

The Tigers would go onto win the game, 5-3, and they would then go on to St. Louis and win games 6 and 7 to win the World Series.

I loved Bill Freehan, and I would copy the way he played baseball, both as a catcher, and as a hitter.

I demanded that I wear uniform #11 in Little League, and when we played sandlot games with our friends, I was always William Ashley Freehan, my hero, my idol.

I always resented that the Detroit Tigers never retired #11 for Freehan, and when the team announced this year that they would retire #11 for the late Sparky Anderson, my emotions got the better of me, and I began to cry.

I loved what Sparky did for the Tigers, taking a team that were second division finishers, and leading them to a World Series title in 1984, but I never forgave the Tigers for letting another person to wear #11.

I have created a Facebook page, #11 Belongs to Bill Freehan, and I hope that my efforts, along with support for Tiger fans, will allow my hero, Bill Frerehan, to be honored, along with Sparky, when Old English D uniform #11 is retired later this year.

#11 and the game of baseball.

Do you have a favorite #11?

Did I forget someone?

Feel free to leave a comment, and if you agree with me that Bill Freehan deserves to be honored when #11 is retired, please click on the link above and join our effort to get the respect that Bill Freehan deserves.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...10 out of 10

I've been looking forward to the start of the baseball season by looking back, back at the numbers of baseball, because, as baseball fans, we all know how important numbers are to the National Pastime.

Today I look at the number 10.

The #10 is the Cubs 3rd baseman Ron Santo, clicking his heels after a win at Wrigley Field, and yes, Ron Santo belongs in the Hall of Fame.
#10 Rusty Staub, who has his #10 retired by the Montreal Expos.

#10 is Indians Coco Crisp, the Rockies Dante Bichette, and the Orioles Miguel Tejada.

10 is how many American League Pennants the Detroit Tigers have won.

10 is how many World Series Championships have been won by the St. Louis Cardinals.

10 is how many Gold Gloves were won by the legendary Al Kaline playing right field for the Detroit Tigers in the 1950s and 1960s.

The #10, Leon Durham of the Cubs, and the "Big Cat," Johnny Mize of the Cardinals.

#10 is "The Hawk," Andre Dawson of the Expos and the Cubs, swooping into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

#10 is the Atlanta Braves 3rd baseman Chipper Jones, the 1999 N.L. MVP, the Blue Jays Vernon Wells, and the great Cardinals 2nd baseman and future Manager, Red Schoendienst.
#10 is outfielder Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks, and catchers Jeff Torborg of the Dodgers, and Bob Montgomery of the Red Sox.

The number ten is a special number to many fans, and teams have retired #1o for men who made the #10 their own, men like...

Hall of Fame manager of the Big Red Machine, the late Sparky Anderson, who guided the Reds to 4 National League Pennants, and back to back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976.

To Royals fans, the #10 is the late Dick Howser, their skipper that led them to the 1985 World Series win over the Cardinals.

Yankee fans will tell you that the #10 is, well..."Holy Cow, look at that," the voice of "The Scooter," Phil Rizzuto.

Ten...a perfect 10 out of 10...who's your favorite #10?

Bill Freehan Catcher of the Year Award

Baseball season is here, and so I thought I'd remind readers of the 1st annual Bill Freehan Catcher of the Year Award, my way of honoring my boyhood hero and the best catchers each week during the 2011 season.

Every Monday I will post the best that was in catching in the big leagues, and then ask you to vote for the catcher who you believe had the best week.

I will have a weekly winner in both the American and National Leagues, then the Monthly Award, and then, at the end of the season, we will crown the best of the best with the 1st ever Bill Freehan Catcher of the Year.

Remember to come back ever Monday to vote for your choice as catcher of the week,

Monday, March 28, 2011

Time for another season of Detroit Tiger baseball

"Detroit Tigers Baseball is on the air..."

Man am I getting old. 

This Thursday is the start of season number #110 of Detroit Tigers baseball, and, as a fan, my 44th.

I say 44 because my Uncle Bob told me he first took me to Tiger Stadium in 1967, and even though I have no recollection of that as a 7 year old, I use it as my "official' birthday as a fan of my beloved Tigers.

The Tigers are a good squad this year, and I'm hoping for a superb run for the guys from Motown, a winning record for sure, and hopefully, a division crown in the American League Central, and a trip to the post season.

I love the Tigers, they are the team of my youth, the very first team to acquire my love and devotion.

Being a fan of the Tigers hasn't always been isn't easy, that's for sure, but I'm back year after year, after year, dreaming of another World Series trophy for the boys in Detroit.

We've seen great players in the olde English "D", from the powerful right arm of Al Kaline in right field, to the powerful bat of Miguel Cabrera, from the Gold Gloves of Bill Freehan, Lance Parrish, and Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate.

We have also seen great teams, from the 1968 and 1984 World Series Champions, to the 2006 American League Champions, and with the A.L. East Champs of 1972 and 1987.

It's not easy though, because being a Tigers fan has also meant the not so good, as in 13 consecutive losing years, from 1993-2005, the miserable teams of '75, '96, and, of course, 2003, when the Tigers lost an A.L. record 119 games.

The Tigers have never been dull, that's for sure, and even when they weren't wining in the 1970's, they gave us the exhilaration of a run for the pennant in '72, the magic of Mark "The Bird" Fidrych in '76, and Ron LeFlore , who left the Michigan State Penitentiary to play center field and lead the American League in stolen bases.

I have always thought the fans who follow teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals have had it way to easy, they follow winners, teams who have won countless championships.

The Tigers have played in 10 World Series. 

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 10 World Series.

That's what makes baseball so grand, and why spring means so much to baseball fans.

On Opening Day, it's all brand new, time to start over, a time when every fan, from Boston, to San Diego, from Seattle down to Tampa Bay, from Baltimore up to the Motor City, every fan dreams of the upcoming baseball season, and a chance to see their team play winning baseball.

The Tigers have a wonderful blend of youth and big league experience, guys like Will Rhymes, a terrific looking young 2nd baseman, Austin Jackson, the Tigers center fielder and lead-off hitter who seems to run down every fly ball and line drive hit between left and right field.

Justin Verlander is the Tigers #1 pitcher, and he has made it his mission this year to be that #1 guy from the moment he takes the mound this Thursday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx against C.C. Sabathia.

Jim Leyland is the Tigers manager, and even though the Tigers have had their problems in the 2nd half of the last few years, I like how he manages the club.

Leyland is a terrific skipper, and I hope Tiger fans realize just how good we have it to have a man like Leyland in charge of our team.

Brennan Boesch, a young kid with a lot of power, who I absolutely think will be a terrific player, hopes to bounce back from a bad second half in 2010.

Brandon Inge is the Tigers 3rd baseman, just as he's been for 11 years now.

Inge, in my opinion, is the "Charlie Hustle" of our time, if I may reference Pete Rose.

No one plays harder, on ever single play, than Inge, and if Rose isn't a good analogy, than sue Bobby Higginson, who played hard every play, in every game, in the Tigers outfield, and on the bases, in the 1990's.

Miguel Cabrera, the best player in the A.L., has been given some tremendous help in Victor Martinez, whom the Tigers signed as a free agent the past winter.
Martinez is a proven big league hitter, and he will DH and catch, backing up young Alex Avila, and giving the Tigers hitters protection, weather they hit in front, or behind him.

The Tigers were 81-81 last year, and yet, with the changes in the off season, I like the Tigers to win 90+ games, and contend in the division.

I'm not one to forecast, or project what a baseball team will do, after all, the players are in control, not me, but I love the start of baseball season, and I am excited what the Tigers are doing, and believe in this team.

Being a fan of the Tigers, I wouldn't trade it for all the rings, the awards, all the fame of any of the big boys, be it from the Bronx, the Windy City, or the City of Angels.

I love the Detroit ball!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring reading: "Perfect" by Lew Paper

My wife and I drove down to Jacksonville Beach today, ate lunch at Chick Fil-A, and then went to a Books-A-Million to browse around.

The first thing I noticed were the clearance racks out front, with books ranging from $1 to $5 on the shelves.

On the $2 rack I saw what will be my 1st baseball book of 2011, "Perfect," the story of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

I have read just 6 pages, but already, I really like this book.

It was written by Lew Paper, a Harvard Law School graduate who has also written books about John F. Kennedy, and CBS-TV.

What a bargain, a great book about the grand game of baseball, and the grandest of all World Series games, Game 5, Larsen's gem, a game forever etched in baseball history...and, did I mention, it cost $2.00...what a deal.

What are you reading this year? 
Feel free to let me know what baseball books you're currently reading, or have read the past year or so, that you enjoyed.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taking issue with Colin Cowherd of ESPN

The other day I happen to be clicking the channels on the cable and I came across "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN.

I was clicking around between commercials of "Mike and Mike", also on ESPN, and "The Dan Patrick Show", a syndicated show.

As usual, it didn't take long for Mr. Cowherd to say something idiotic, this time in reference to the game of baseball.

In discussing the different sports, he ripped baseball "purists" for having the audacity to call Babe Ruth the greatest ball player of All-Time, saying he couldn't play in today's game.

Cowherd, as do many fans today, stated that Ruth was, para-phrasing, "barely six foot tall, and never had to face black and Latin players."

Cowherd continued with the usual steroid era "bigger, faster, stronger" argument that younger, modern fans use to down play the accomplishments of men who set the standards of big league ball players, players whom they never saw on TV.

There is no arguing that players today didn't face African-American or Latin players, and that today's players are physically superior.

However, if you study baseball, and have followed it for any amount of time, then you also know that those arguments are moot.

Today's players never had to travel cross country on trains, play on gravel infields, use equipment in it's rudimentary evolutions, or face pitchers throwing spit balls, or anything else pitchers were allowed to put on the baseball.

Many times during the "dead ball era," before the 1920's, the same baseball was used for the entire game, making the ball almost impossible to hit because the ball would often become mis-shapen.

Players of the early 1900's, and into the 1960's were paid not what they were worth, but what the owners told them they were going to be paid.

Meals and for that, nutrition, were hardly the concerns of players, or the owners. 

Players wore heavy wool uniforms, hitters were knocked down by pitchers in every at bat...something today's hitters simply know pitchers will not do.

There are great ball players today, and there will be great players in the future. 

To say that anything accomplished in the past isn't up to par with the present is silly, un-true, and an un-educated response that fits his or her particular theory.

I'm a Tiger fan, I have been for over 40 years, and at no time have I ever had the thought that Miguel Cabrera is better than Hank Greenberg, or that Magglio Ordonez is better than Ty Cobb.

Yes, Allan Trammell was a better shortstop than Billy Rogell, and yes, Curtis Granderson probably runs faster than Harry Heilmann did.

But that's what proves that baseball, more than any other sport, is the same game, weather it's 1911, or 2011.
Baseball is the greatest sport, and the records that Cobb, Ruth, Mays, and Gehrig set back in the day are as meaningful today as they were back then.

Albert Pujols, the great 1st baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals is as great a player that has ever graced the team, and he may very well go down as the best Cardinals player ever, but he isn't taking the place of Keith Hernandez, or Joe Torre, or Vince Coleman.

No, the greatest Cardinal of All-Time is still, as I right this, Stan Musial, and Pujols will have do do quite a bit more before baseball fans, even the hardest of die hards, proclaim him better than "The Man."

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...dressed to the 9's

The number nine is as synonymous with baseball as anything the grand old game has to offer.

Nine...the 9 innings per game, 9 players on the field, all numbered, 1-9...and 9, that's the right fielder, who catches a fly ball, and in the score card you enter, FO-9.

Nine and baseball...Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers, Terry Pendleton of the Atlanta Braves, and the great Reggie an Oakland Athletic.

#9 is Juan Pierre of the Florida Marlins catching the final out of the 2003 World Series, and Chone Figgins dashing around the bases for the Angels, helping bring a championship to Anaheim for the first time, in 2002.

The number nine is Gold Glove 3rd baseman Craig Nettles of the Yankees, the Cubs Jim Hickman, and the Astros Hunter Pence.

Nine is a grand number in big league baseball.

Roger Maris is #9, back to back MVP Awards in 1960-61 for the Yankees, and a World Series champion with both New York and the St. Louis Cardinals.

#9 is also a young Joe Torre, wearing the number nine proudly as he won the 1971 National League MVP as a 3rd baseman for the Cardinals.
The number 9...or, maybe 99...Many Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and now the Tampa Bay Rays.

Nine is baseball, the number is everywhere, and we, as fans, know that there is really only one #9, the one player, who, rose above all others who wore the number. His name was Theodore Samuel Williams
"The Splendid Splinter", Ted Williams.

Ted Williams is, simply, the best player to ever wear number 9..."Teddy Ballgame"..."The Kid."

Ted Williams... 521 Home Runs, the last player to hit over .400, at .406 in 1941, and the only American League player to win the Triple Crown twice, in 1942, and 1947.

Many baseball fans and historians consider Williams the greatest hitter ever, in part, because of Williams 5+ years serving as a Marine in WWII and in the Korean War.

I think Williams is in the Top 5 players ever, along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Lou Gehrig.

Do you have a favorite #9?

Who did I leave out?

See you next time for the best of the number 10...and the perfect 10.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers, great 8

In 1985 John Fogerty  released the song "Centerfield," and a baseball anthem was born.

As we continue our countdown to Opening  Day in the big leagues, we look back, back to the #8, and what that number means to the great game of baseball.

The number 8 is, as Fogerty says, center field, #8 on the score sheet, a fly ball out to center field...F-8.

#8 is the sure hands of Gold Glove short shop Eddie Brinkman, and catcher Mike Heath of the Detroit Tigers.

8 is pre-Camelot baseball, 8 American League, and 8 National League teams in the big leagues until expansion in 1961.

In 1919 the Chicago White Stockings were found to have thrown the World Series, losing to the Cincinnati Reds, on purpose, in 8 games, forever changing the game of baseball.

The players, Hap Feltch, Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, Swede Risberg, Chick Gandil, and Fred McMillan, all eight , are part of baseball history, immortalized in books, and the movie "Eight Men Out."

#8 is two Hall of Fame catchers of the New York Yankees, Bill Dickey, and Yogi Berra, who backstopped the Bronx Bombers for 30+ years, winning 17 World Series.

#8 is current Dodgers manager Don Mattlngly, who, as a Yankee in 1987, hit a home run in 8 consecutive games, tying the big league record of the Pirates Dale Long, and then later accomplished by Ken Griffey, JR.
#8 is the "Hawk," Hall of Fame out fielder Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs,ans a magical MVP season in 1987, and his former Montreal Expos teammate, "The Kid," Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter of the 1986 Mets.

#8 is back to back MVP Awards and World Series championships for Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan.

Baseball and the number eight are quite a pair, they go together like, well, like father and son,  Phillies catcher Bob Boone, and his father, Tigers 3rd baseman Ray Boone.

The #8 is the Dodgers Reggie Smith, the Cubs Michael Barrett, the Angels Max Venable, and the ChiSox Bo Jackson.

Eight, ain't it great, like the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Houston Astrodome, the 1st ever indoor ball park in the big leagues.

#8 is the grace of the great Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox, and the "impossible Dream" of 1967.

 #8 is Cal Ripken, JR., who played in 2, 632 consecutive big league games for the only team he ever new, the Baltimore Orioles.

 #8 is the magnificent Willie Stargell, and the 1979 "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates.

 #8 is Garry Gaetti of the Twins, Mark Belanger of the Orioles, and the Phillies Tony Taylor.

#8 is the Tigers Marv Owen, the Brewers Mark Loretta, and Hal Smith of the 1964 Houston Colt 45's.

The #8 is the eighth spot in the batting order, reserved for the worst of hitters, and sometimes, if your Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa, who likes to hit his pitchers in the 8th spot.

As we see, there have been a lot of number 8's that make baseball great over the years, and more are yet to come.

Who's your favorite #8?

Did I miss someone?

Please comment below, and I'll see you tomorrow for the #9.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Countdown to Opening Day, by the Numbers...7th Heaven

Baseball and numbers, they go hand in hand, they were meant for each other.

Baseball and it's relationship with numbers, drives the passion between baseball and the fans, hits, RBIs, HRs, wins, losses, etc.

Players first wore numbers on their uniforms as a standard after the 1927 Yankees tacked them onto the backs of their players, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

In our countdown to the start of the 2011 baseball season we've been looking back at baseball and numbers, including the #3 of the Bambino, and the #4 of the Iron Horse of those '27 Yanks.

Today it's the number 7...left field on your scorecard.

7 is very special number in baseball.

For me, the #7 will always be the Tigers Pudge Rodriguez.
Why, you ask? 

Well, when Pudge played those fantastic 5 years for the Tigers, he wore #7, and he wore it well.

Rodriguez was magnificent from the start, leading the Tigers to the World Series in 2006, and playing Gold Glove baseball as the Tigers catcher, and...becoming the 1st, and only, favorite player of my wife, who fell in love with Pudge, and me, in the same year, 2005.

The number 7 is the 7th inning stretch and "Take me out to the ball game."

The very first 7th inning stretch was an accident, and, as legend has it,  that legend is very large, indeed.

President William Howard Taft was at a Washington Senators game in 1910, when, after the top of the 7th inning, the robust 300 lb. President arose for his seat to stretch his legs.

Fans thought the President was leaving, rose to applaud as he left, then sat back down after Taft sat back into his seat for the rest of the game.

#7 is the best of 7...It's Game 7 of the post season, Game 7 of the World Series, and Mickey Lolich jumping into the arms of battery mate Bill Freehan after beating the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series.

The number 7 has been worn by many big league ball players, from Tigers short stop Tom Veryzer in the late 1970s, to J.D. Drew of the Red Sox in 2004, and by the great Twins catcher Joe Mauer today.

#7 is the A's Bobby Crosby and the Mets Jeff Francouer.

#7 is also Johnny Neves, who, while playing for the Fargo-Moorehead Twins of the Northern League, wore the #7 BACKWARDS in 1951...Nevens, spelled backwards, is...seveN.

#7 has graced the backs of many a fine ball player, like Orioles short stop Mark Belanger, Rocky Colovito of the Tigers and Indians, and of future Hall of Fame catcher-second baseman-out fielder Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros.

#7 is the Mets Jose Reyes, Hubie Brooks, Kevin Mitchell, and the magnificent Ed Kranepool, the best #7 the Mets have ever had.

Yes, 7 is special in big league baseball, and I know your saying, hey, how can you, did you, really forget...Mickey Mantle?

Of course not, how could I.

There are now, and there have been, many number 7s to play bis league baseball over the past century, some with success, some not, but there is only one #7.

Mickey Mantle IS #7.

Mantle came into the big leagues on April 17th, 1951, the heir apparent to the great Joe DiMaggio.
Mantle first put on number 6 as a Yankee, playing right field on that first game at Yankee Stadium.

After a slump, and being sent down to the minors, Mantle returned to the Yankees in '51, putting on the now famous #7 Yankee Pinstripes, and in 1952, the center field job was his, for the next 18 years.

 "The Mick," Mickey Mantle.  He was larger than life to kids growing up in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bob Costas, the terrific baseball announcer for the MLB Network grew up loving Mantle so much, that he carried a 1958 Topps All-Star card of Mantle in his wallet for years.

I believe the card had been either lost, or stolen out of Costas wallet, and then found, causing the Mantle card to be kept elsewhere.

Mickey Mantle, my Uncle Bob once told me, was the fastest player he ever saw run from home plate to first base, weather from the left side, or the right.

There will be many more number 7s to come to the big leagues, but #7, in baseball, is Mickey Charles Mantle.

Who'd I forget"

Who's your best #7?

Please comment below, and thanks for reading my blog...on to #8...hey, that's great!

The 1st TV baseball of the spring

Yesterday, for the firstt time this spring, I got to watch a baseball game, and enjoy it.

The Detroit Tigers, my favorite team, played the Atlanta Braves, at the Braves spring home, at Disney's Wide World of Sports, in Orlando.

The announcers, Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser, and Bobby Valentine, are the new Sunday night announcing team for ESPN.

They did a great job, as did their sideline guy, Buster Olney.

There have been games on the MLB Network, but until yesterday, I just watched those games in passing.

I've never had the pleasure of watching a game there, but every time i see a game on TV, or talk to someone who's been there,  the complex is raved about by everyone.

I'm sure my favorite player, Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch, was giving the park high raves after yesterday's game, after the slugging outfielder hit a monstrous shot to right field in the 2rd inning for his 1st HR of the spring.

I must admit, I've been very slow to spring baseball this season.

My wife and I have moved recently, and my health has not been the best, but yesterday's game on ESPN has jump started my baseball clock this year, and I hope to pay closer attention the rest of the spring.

I like big league spring training, it is a great thing for baseball fans.

No other sport has what baseball has in spring training. 

Fans of every big league club make plans to take time off in March to travel and see their favorite club play baseball in the warmth of the Florida and Arizona sunshine.

Hope, as the old saying goes, "springs eternal."

Every fan, even the lovable south siders of Chicago, believe that this will be the year the team they have followed as a young boy or girl will win the World Series.

I as lucky as a young baseball fan, the Tigers were very good in the late 1960s and early 1970s, winning the World Series in '68, and the A.L. East in '72.

Some fans, like the youngsters following the Pirates, aren't as fortunate.

Their Bucs haven't had a team play meaningful baseball since Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla left them after the 1992 season.

But those young fans will be right there this spring, cheering on the Pirates, watching those young players run out ground balls hard, diving after line drives in the gaps, and raring back for a little extra on their fastball, hoping to impress the manager and coaches, trying to get to the big leagues.

I hope to get to a spring game, or maybe two, this year, and I'd love to get to Lakeland, where the Tigers play baseball.
It's the 75th Anniversary of the Tigers playing their spring baseball in the city of Lakeland, the longest such relationship of any big league club and a city.

I also will try and get down to Viera, Florida, about 2 1/2 hours down the road from my home here in Jacksonville.

The Tigers will be there later this month to play the young Washington Nationals, and hey, maybe I'll get to see a good game, it's not scheduled to be a split squad game, so players from both teams should be of the big league variety, getting ready for the opening of the regular season on March 31st.

If you can get to a spring game, go, enjoy.

Sit in the sunshine, bask in the glory of your youth, of the sandlots, of those Little League games, of those games of catch in the back yard with your Dad, or your brothers, or your friends.

It's spring time, and that means the great American Pastime, baseball, is here once again.

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Brennan Boesch HR vs Braves, March 3rd, 2011

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