Grass always greenest for baseball fans before spring training

Shot of Turner Field at dusk.
Atlanta head groundskeeper Ed Mangan keeps it the greenest! (photo by Ariel Bravy)

One of the best parts of writing about baseball is every year in February I get to start over with an article that mentions the smell of grass, the changing seasons and the anticipation of another year of baseball. And I’m going to do so right now.

Ah, the week players report to spring training! It’s a magical feeling when teams are more or less set; or at least enough to know who’s going to be vying for key positions through the rest of the year. Even though the weather outside is gross and rainy, the trees are still bare and the temperature hasn’t started climbing on the ol’ thermometer (here in Atlanta, that is, and dare I say many other states), Florida and Arizona have balmy temps and trees that stay green and tropical.

But the best part of is that every team and the fans of those teams gets some time to trade hypotheses and projections about the coming season and even though some of them may be delusional, none of them are wrong.

Some of my readers have accused suggested that I may be a perpetual optimist; that my shade of glasses is a lush shade of rose. And though I could bluster and deny, I can’t say that I’m not a fan of the Atlanta Braves. I am. Unabashedly, I might add. I don’t shy away from that, nor do I feel any guilt or shame for that fact.

We’re all fans, right?

Even if not for one team, at least of the game of baseball. The love of the game. The joy of competition. Any or all of these is enough to draw someone to the game and I, for one, am all of the above. This may read like a confession, but like the start of the new season, it’s a chance for us to start fresh! A chance to lay the groundwork for everything that comes afterward.

I mean, let’s be honest. If you thought there was no chance in the world for your team to do something interesting, there’d be no reason to watch, right?

The Braves may have let some of us down over the last few years. We may have expected more: more results, better results, better performance. And to those of us, I can’t say I blame you. However, the Braves have certainly made things interesting more years out of the last two decades than they haven’t. They’ve given fans a chance to have some hope going into September and October for many years, which is more than I can say for a lot of teams.

The other day I gave a ride to a guy I work with who’s a lifelong Phillies fan. He assured me they were going to have their bounce-back year. That this was the one in which Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay were going to regain their form, as well as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. He swore up and down that the Phillies were going to run away with the division and easily take first place in the East again.

I might have laughed in his face.

I certainly guaranteed him he was out of his mind, but I can’t say he’s wrong, can I? I’ve seen stranger things happen, and we all know the recent history of the Phillies and the Braves. Besides, that’s the fun of preseason. He told me to mark his words and you damn well better believe I am. Right here, in fact!

So, as this year gets under way, let it be said now that I encourage disagreement and discussion. Please disagree with me. Call me crazy! Say I’m deluded! Gather your information and state your case.

Because it’s going to take more than that to convince me I’m any of those things. The Braves are my team, and, barring some unforseen moral crisis, they will be for life.

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll go ahead and say I feel good about this season. Last year, the Braves struggled to win a game or two in spring training and went on to have a 94 win season, taking the Wild Card spot and showing the kind of determination they have to win. While I’m still a little unsure about giving up gamer Martin Prado, I’m very excited about what the Braves are bringing to the table this time around.

As far as spring training goes, I’m looking at pitchers Tim Hudson, Julio Teheran and Sean Gilmartin. Hudson, because I want to see him continue to perform at the level I expect from him and the other two to see who’s going to take the fifth spot in the rotation. I’m looking at brothers Justin and B.J. Upton to see them both perform injury free, as well as if a change of scenery and playing together pushes them further than they’ve gone before. Not to mention bigger things from Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Juan Francisco. I’m excited to see what I think is arguably the best outfield in the game. I’m anticipating a much better offense this year.

This is not an in-depth analysis, as I’m sure you can tell. This is one hopeful fan expressing both a love for the game and the Braves and my excitement over the new season that begins in a little over a week. There will be plenty of time of discussion and analysis once it’s under way, and I promise we’ll do that here.

But for now, I may have rosy glasses, but I can see quite clear, I assure you.

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