For many out there, like me, the end of baseball season is a sad time and begins a long, cold offseason. I try getting into other sports like hockey, football and even basketball, but none of those reign in comparison to Major League Baseball.
The next four months are going to be cold, bitter times for baseball fans. There are bright spots along the way, and baseball has the most exciting offseason with free agency, trades, awards and the winter meetings to keep fans interested. But it’s not the same as having games every single day for a seven-month stretch.
Below is an outlined schedule of offseason baseball activities to help get fans through this sad time.
Arizona Fall League
Games have been underway for quite some time in Arizona. During the fall league, the most talented prospects from each organization gather as a platform for scouts. Many of these players are on the cusp of cracking a major league roster.
Unfortunately, most of these games aren’t on TV, but if you’re looking to take a vacation in the winter, there’s no better place to go than Arizona where the current temperature is a sunny 87.
Teams play around 30 games with the championship game being held Nov. 17 on MLB Network.
Winter league baseball
For those truly desperate for some baseball, there are several winter leagues in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. These leagues run from around mid-October all the way into the new year. Each league has a playoff with the winner of each league meeting in the Caribbean World Series, which is set to begin February 1.
A lot of minor league players, and even some major league players, will use winter league games as a way to stay fresh during the offseason. With the World Baseball Classic (WBC) this year, it’s also a good platform to become familiar with names from other countries.
The winter meetings are probably the best four days in the offseason. While a lot does get done during these meetings, it also cranks up the hot stove season and starts discussions for offseason moves.
This year’s winter meeting is in Orlando, Fla., December 9-12. If you’re a fan of a team looking to make a lot of moves this offseason, you’ll want to be glued to MLB Network during this four-day event.
World Baseball Classic
Fortunately for baseball fans, meaningful games will start a little earlier this year. If you’re a fan of international baseball, then you’re in luck as it’s time for the WBC again.
There are still two qualifying rounds to be played Nov. 15-18 before the field is set. Qualifying rounds for the tournament itself begin March 2. The USA is in Pool D, which starts on March 7, with Mexico, Italy and one more qualifier that hasn’t been determined yet.
The championship round begins March 17 with the final game on March 19. The USA really needs to pick it up this year as we have yet to win a classic.
Pitchers and catchers
The most exhilarating phrase for baseball fans. We all can’t wait until pitchers and catchers report to camp. It’s the most exciting time of the year for fans — and it means warmer weather is on the way.
Reporting dates haven’t been posted yet, but we can guess from previous seasons that most teams will report to their spring training home around Feb. 15.
With a lot of players hopefully participating in the WBC this year, I would expect teams to arrive early to get in as much work as possible before the games begin.
Shortly after teams report, games will begin. Even though these games are meaningless, they give us a glimmer of what we’ve been waiting for through the offseason. This is a chance to get a first look at new acquisitions or players coming back from injuries.
Spring training is important to shaping a team, and, unfortunately, there is always at least one big injury that can change a team’s outlook.
This is also a great time to head down to the beach and watch some baseball under the sun, the way the game was meant to be played. Spring training creates one of the most spectacular venues in all of sports with so many games being played within a close distance.
A tentative schedule released by the Phillies has them playing the Astros in Clearwater, Fla., on February 23, so I expect other teams to begin playing around the same time.
Spring training will be overshadowed by the WBC this year, but it’s still one of the most exciting times of the year that takes us all the way to the real thing.
In 2013, the regular season starts on Sunday, March 31, with one game. The teams have not been decided yet, but I’m guessing the World Series champs will be involved, possibly against the Dodgers. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start the season?
And there you have it. Just like that and we’re back to baseball in no time.
For those looking for smaller milestones, baseball does a great job of spreading out awards from the previous season during the offseason.
Here is a schedule of awards to be presented:
11/12: AL & NL Rookie of the Year
11/13: AL & NL Manager of the Year
11/14: AL & NL Cy Young
11/15: AL & NL MVP
If you have any other suggestions for keeping a baseball fan’s mind interested during the offseason please leave your comments below. It’s a tough time for fans and we need all the help we can get.