Braves SI Cover Spring is here. I know I am right. It has nothing to do with March 21st or any other calendar date. Why you ask am I so sure? Spring is back because baseball is back!

I usually enjoy one out-of-town vacation each winter, a spring trip to see pre-season baseball in Orlando, Florida. This year I could not afford the trip and I had my big trip to Rome. I mean, a guy has to have his priorities, right? But I still missed the games, the atmosphere, the overpriced food and the smells of baseball. And my T-shirt collection now is missing a 2011 Spring Training edition. But I digress.

Baseball began in earnest on Thursday and now the games really count. The Giants will attempt to do what few teams in the modern era have done — win two World Series Championships in a row. Except for the Yankees, in the last several decades it has not been done. I do not think the Giants will do it for one reason — they “caught lightning in a bottle” last year, getting hot right when it mattered. For several months they were dead, treading water, and then the Padres faded and the Giants caught them at the end of the season. Then the Braves all but gave them game four in a five games series (big errors) and the Giants’ destiny was in view. Hand it to them, their pitching was decisive and their bats hit just enough at the right time. But odds are they can’t do it again.

So who wins this year? Maybe the Red Sox. They improved and the Yankees pitching still puts little fear into my thinking. I obviously have no idea but my teams should be around for the party. The White Sox improved but I have my doubts. My childhood favorite, the Atlanta Braves, came close last year but lacked a big bat in the middle of the lineup. Now they have that bat in Dan Uggla. And they needed to bolster a few other pitching and reserve spots and did it in the off-season. I think they have some of the best young pitchers in the game and they clearly have a solid lineup. If Chipper were to ever stay healthy who knows. It should be fun.

ozzie Meanwhile, I will not be able to see many major league games because of the high price of a ticket and the cost of getting into and out of Chicago. I will, however, see more than my fair share of minor league games when my Kane County Cougars get started next week. (The Cougars are one of the most successful franchises in the minors and play twenty minutes from my door.) Opening Day is Monday, April 11. I can’t wait. The only problem is that it could still be pretty cold. But then spring is here no matter what the temperature outside says because baseball is back. My favorite mascot will be back too – – Ozzie T. Cougar! Can’t wait to see the Oz. He does make me forget all my trials for a few hours when I am at the old ballpark.