“It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get ‘em interested. Wake ‘em up and let ‘em know that their season is coming, the good times are gonna roll.”—Harry Caray

I’m sure Harry is looking down from his heavenly equivalent of a broadcast booth, cold Bud in hand, smiling. Spring Training is indeed for the fans. It is the season of hope. A time to shake off the winter hangover and think about lawns and vacations and cook-outs and, of course, baseball. A time for the Baltimore and Colorado fans to look at their teams, look at the off-season moves, and tell themselves “this could be the year”. Who knows better about that than Red Sox fans? I think I’ve uttered those very words every single March since I could speak.

After the magic of last season, of finally winning it all, I thought this winter would somehow be different, easier. I was wrong. Baseball cannot return fast enough to satisfy my craving. Instead of the quiet desperation of waiting and hoping that the season could be special, there is instead an eagerness. An impatience to get this thing started because I know it is going to be special. Every game will be an event. Every Yankees series a war. We will enjoy each moment as no Red Sox fan has since 1919. I know I will.

For now, Fort Myers is the place to be. Yesterday, Schilling threw off the mound for the first time since the World Series. The guy means business. It amazes me how someone so no-nonsense and gritty and competitive can co-exist with someone as goofy as Kevin Millar. The only thing they have in common is their love of being in front of a camera and microphone. It would not surprise me in the least if Curt finally has enough of him one of these days and just beats the snot out of him. The only more unlikely teammates are Pedro and Piazza.

During the week, I’ve heard interviews with both Manny and Ortiz on WEEI. Am I just being a homer, or are these guys the two most sincere and genuine people in the game today? Ortiz is the most humble and appreciative athlete you will ever hear. Always giving credit to others, just trying to help the team. And Manny, well, he’s just Manny. He may be in his own little Manny-world, but he knows it and embraces it. He had a good laugh when asked about being a gold-glover. Both are as much a pleasure to hear interviewed as they are to watch play the game.

Ortiz and Manny should have their own show. Kind of a sitcom/reality thing. They could be ex-athletes living together, maybe running a gym. Jennifer Love Hewitt could be the girl next door that’s always borrowing things and asking for help, always scantily clad of course. Famous athletes could make guest appearances. Throw in the rest of the formula sitcom cast, the dumb guy, the funny old guy, etc, and I think its a winner.

Seriously, this team seems as well-built as last year’s, both in terms of baseball talent and chemistry. Perhaps even better. On the field, Trot is healthy, Renteria is at short to stay and hopefully Mueller will be ready to go – I still believe his absence was a large part of the mid-season mediocrity of 2004. Pitching, they are without Pedro, Lowe and Williamson but have added Wells, Miller, Clement, Mantei and Halama. And off the field, they are missing Pedro, Nomar and Lowe. Addition by subtraction.

Two weeks from tomorrow, I fly south. I have tickets to the game vs. Baltimore on the 19th and I will be furiously searching eBay and begging everyone I know to secure tickets for other games. It is getting close.