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Long Toss

Spring is in the air. You can almost reach out and touch it. Though it's still a month away, the early rumblings of spring are already creeping into the atmosphere. Unless you're on the east coast, that is. If that's the case, sorry about all of the snow. The fifty degree weather in Boise is quite nice, thank you very much.

The warming of the weather can only mean one thing: Spring Training is upon us. Pitchers and Catchers have been trickling into training camps, with the rookies and veterans close behind. Florida and Arizona are filling with baseball players and soon enough, the fans that rally behind their teams. A renewal of hope is in the air and all teams harbor dreams of hoisting that World Series trophy come October. And of course, my beloved Boston Red Sox are among them.

I am followed the Red Sox since their cursed year of 1986. The 1986 World Series is one of my earliest memories of watching baseball on television. I sat there in pain as that ball trickled between Bill Buckner's legs and allowed the winning run to score in Game 6 of the World Series. I barely remember the loss in Game 7, and like most of Red Sox Nation, for years focused on the untimely error that continued the curse of the Boston Red Sox.

This all ended in 2004, as the Red Sox finally won the trophy that had eluded them for 86 years. That included the monumental comeback from three games down to defeat the New York Yankees. 2007 added another World Series to the Red Sox lore and yet, here we are, clamoring for more.

That's why this season once again brings hope to Red Sox Nation. The hated Yankees have finally recaptured the title, and Red Sox fans are ready to renew the rivalry. With the additions of John Lackey, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro, and Adrian Beltre, the Red Sox seem primed to make another run at the pennant. The defense will be improved, and the offense should provide consistent run support for the rock solid pitching staff. With Victor Martinez on board for the entire year, this team could be a lock for the playoffs. In the spring, anything is possible.

That is what I like about this time of year. It brings me back to a time in which I enjoyed the thrills of baseball starting. Of course, playing baseball in February and March in Spring Creek, NV hardly evokes the idea of warm weather baseball. Tryouts were held in the gymnasium and most of the first weeks of practice were also held inside. Games were sometimes played in weather with a wind chill that made the weather near 20 degrees. Snow flurries would often occur in those games, with snow sticking to your cleats with every step you took. Trying to run around the bases was like running with two lead boots attached to your feet. Let's just stay those are the memories that are ever present, but not really missed.

It's when that weather hits the 60 degree mark and I just feel the urge to throw the ball around. To feel that same feeling I had when I stepped onto the field for that first time every spring. The birds chirping off in the distance as the metal spikes echo on the parking lot pavement. It's that feeling in March that makes me want to get out on the field, grab the brand new ball, throw on a mitt, and proceed to make that game of long toss. To take batting practice and feel the line drive that you just tore into right field. (Maybe my swing was a little slow, but it still made solid contact).

Spring brings the refreshing feel of new hope. Along with it comes the new baseball season, the freshly cut grass, and the slightly askew chalk lines. Every year, when the weather warms, and a slight breeze blows in the air, these are the memories that creep back into my mind. The road trips, the chatter in the dugout, and the hours of grounders, fly balls, and sprints. It brings me to a place in which I wish I could step onto that field one more time and take my rightful place at first base or right field. Those are the memories that often pop up when this time of year rolls along.

Mostly, I suppose, I miss the days of a lost youth that aren't so easily forgotten.


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