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Jackie Hope: Baseball season means start of spring

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Sunday night, spring officially begins. Oh, sure, there was that equinox thing last Thursday, and there was a robin mining a snow bank for something meaty the other day.

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But for some of us spring begins when that first Major League baseball is tossed out onto the field of dreams and a batter steps up to knock that sucker out of the park. Or he watches it breeze by. Whichever.

Yes, we know the first game of the season was actually played in Australia last Saturday. Or maybe it was Sunday there, when the game was played, because it may be tomorrow in Australia when it’s today here. Or maybe it is yesterday there.

Time is too confusing. Is your body still in denial about daylight saving time? Don’t you just hate it in spring, when the time changes, but your body refuses to? The family alarm clock — ours is a black and white cocker spaniel — immediately adjusts to the time change, but other members of the family lay abed like Sleeping Beauty when 6 a.m. rolls around. And those same family members are still partying hearty at “new” midnight, while everyone else has been copping Z’s for an hour.

Solution? Relocate to the Pacific time zone until Standard Time returns. There’s where all the cool kids hang out, dude.

Anyway, baseball. The first stateside game is Sunday night: the Los Angeles Dodgers at the San Diego Padres. See? Told you the Pacific time zone is where it’s at, baby! It’s the first game of their 162-game seasons — actually the second for the Dodgers, who opened in Australia against the Diamondbacks — with an almost endless spring, summer and fall of baseball stretching out in front of them.

Is this a great country, or what?

If every possible regular season game is played, there will be a total of 2,430 baseball games to watch this year, and that does not count the playoffs and the World Series. Think of all those runs, hits and errors, and hot dogs. Remember last season’s MLB’s Fan Cave, where guys were holed up in a tricked-out man cave in New York City, watching every single game? MLB touted that gig as part of their Dreamjob program. Oh yeah, I could qualify for that dream job. Just take a look at my game-watching resume. And they actually paid those guys!

The real seasonal action starts on Monday, the second day of the season, when all the teams begin playing. The Twins open against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field — that’s new Comiskey Park for us diehards — and Ricky Nolasco is “probable” as the starting pitcher for the Twins.

Nolasco? Which one is he? The Twins change their pitching rotation about as often as Taylor Swift changes boyfriends. Maybe Nolasco is one of her exes. Oh well, no doubt he pitches about 86 mph, changes speeds and pitches to contact.

At 10 minutes past 2 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time — which is 1:10 Body Time for some of us, and either tomorrow or yesterday in Australia — the Twins’ leadoff batter will step up to the plate and take a swing at the 2014 season.

Manager Ron Gardenhire isn’t telling us who he’s selected as leadoff man, but the smart money is on either center fielder Alex Presley or second baseman Brian Dozier. Joe Mauer, who is now firmly planted as the first baseman, looks to bat third and outfielder Josh Willingham has the cleanup position. And, hey, Jason Kubel is back. Remember him? When he was with the Twins in 2009, he hit for the cycle. Gotta love that guy. He’s from Belle Fourche, S.D.

Now, some people swear by fantasy baseball. Some people wade into baseball pools. And other people swear at baseball, period. Especially the teams’ managers. Here is a wager-worthy baseball pool we follow: How many games can Gardie go before getting thrown out? According to www.nbcsports.com, Gardie gets thrown out more than any other major league manager — 3.5 percent of his total career games. Well, if Ozzie Guillen were still managing the White Sox, I’d have my money on Gardie’s getting tossed out on this season’s opening day.

Brainstorm bazinga! Know what would be even cooler than watching all 2,430 baseball games? Having our own MLB team in Dickinson. C’mon, you know our American Legion baseball teams are always tight. So a town that can produce a superstar like Cole Frenzel ought to be home to an expansion team, or a farm team or an expansion team’s farm team.

Imagine this: Darin Erstad would be the color commentator, vendors would be selling dozens and dozens of those big, fat, red Cloverdale hot dogs; and all the drinks would be called Energy Drinks because we are, like, the energy hub of southwest North Dakota. OK, wait for it … we’d name the baseball field the Oil Field.

Next Monday, oh man, I am so gonna toss some Cloverdales on the barbie, pop open an energy drink and watch Willingham swing for the fence. I’m thinking Gardie will get the umpire’s heave-ho by the end of this opening series with the Sox. And maybe, just maybe, this season the Minnesota Twins will knock our socks off.

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