MLB Spring Training Nears; Big Stories to Watch For

It’s time. As the football world picks up the remnants of a boring Pro Bowl, and an even less interesting Super Bowl, America’s great tradition is set to captivate the country for the next seven months. Major League Baseball teams are beginning to pepper parts of Arizona and Florida. The novelty and excitement of Spring Training 2006 will last approximately three weeks, by which time each team will have played two or three games. Many argue that Spring Training is too long and monotonous, and this pre-season will undoubtedly lull baseball fans to sleep, who will wake up only to be re-awakened by the national anthem on Opening Day. Although it may be impossible to stay interested in MLB’s preseason, here are a few stories that might provide humor, entertainment, and possibly some baseball intrigue. Nomar’s in Los Angeles (at first base). In his final days with the Red Sox, fans and media speculated that Nomar was unhappy in Boston and wanted to play in a low-pressure city, like Los Angeles. A few years ago, Nomar, the face of the Red Sox, was playing the most important position on the field. Now, Nomar will experience growing pains at first base; but hopefully he can salvage an injury-free, respectable season. There is also Pedro’s arrival to consider. While with the Red Sox, the future Hall of Fame pitcher never showed up to Spring Training on time, routinely citing a family reunion or his father’s birthday. In his first year with the Mets, Pedro arrived at the training facility early. Will the Martinez-Mets love endure beyond into a second season of existence? Or will Martinez show his true colors and show up late? Nothing can spice Spring Training more than a soap opera. How about Barry Bonds? With stricter regulations on steroid use in Major League Baseball, how much smaller will Barry Bonds’ head be on the first day of Spring Training? Last season, Bonds virtually remained in seclusion, avoiding all forms of media, even ESPN’s designated Barry Reporter, Pedro Gomez. Will Bonds explode at the media, in the midst of the steroid scandal and the pursuit of Hank Aaron’s home run record? Bonds will play his familiar role: Spring Training Bad-Guy. Roger Clemens will also be in the limelight this spring as he pithes in the World Baseball Classic. He has decided to pitch in the Classic and then decide whether or not to retire based on his performance. If he chooses to continue playing, Clemens will be fielding offers from the Houston Astros, the Red Sox and the Yankees. The World Baseball Classic, the unofficial world cup of baseball, will distract fans from the monotony of Spring Training. In fact, the timing of the Classic is perfectly situated in the heart of Spring Training, providing baseball fans with the opportunity to see the world’s best players play in meaningful games. Maybe Spring Training won’t be so uneventful for baseball fans after all.