The Man Page: Break out your gloves, baseball is back!

The month of March is unlike any other for one reason alone: baseball is back. After months without the sport we grew up on, baseball brings us hope for warmer weather and a fresh start for the many teams who hope to make this year special.

To be sure, no sport’s preseason is more celebrated than baseball’s month-long Spring Training—and for good reason. Spring Training is a sign not just of the of the sport but of a return to normalcy, an opportunity to crawl out of winter’s cold even if half the country is still frozen solid.

Baseball marks the beginning of longer days and warmer weather and popcorn in the grandstands where nothing else matters. It brings a longing for June when three-day weekends are the norm, and weeknight games drive our schedules. It brings an anticipation for the playoffs and the understanding that over the next six months anything can happen.

And for all fans, March is the lone month where your team and mine can be equally optimistic about what lies ahead.

Of course, all eyes will be on the Chicago Cubs this season, as the World Series Champions return a large portion of their historic 2016 roster. But the case can be made for many of the league’s team to prevail over the course of 162 games for a chance at something magical in October (or November).

In Atlanta, the opening of a new stadium will usher in a new era for the Braves, and in Cleveland, the sting of runner-up will drive many to see 2017 as an opportunity for redemption. Toronto, a team once regarded during the 2016 season to be a lock for World Series aspirations, will have much to prove after a shortfall during the playoffs. And in Washington and Los Angeles, two would-be National League powerhouse cities, fan bases are craving the payout for many years of expectations.

In both Florida and Arizona, two hubs of baseball fandom this month, evaluations are made, and fans live and die on the progress of their team over the course of the spring. Unknown players emerge to become household names before Opening Day and expectations are formed for which 25 players will be in uniform when April arrives.

As for me, this March will be my second removed from the game after retiring from the minor leagues in 2015. It brings a unique nostalgia for the energy Spring Training provides. Keeping up with old friends who are making their way to spring training camps across both leagues, I am reminded of the way players, too, relish how special this month can be.

Whether it’s a potential promotion to the next minor league level, the possibility of making your major league debut or even just the hope that can you continue to play for one more day, Spring Training fills the holes that an offseason leaves.

Baseball brings many joys, and many let downs, as any sport can be expected to do. But in March, a month where wins and losses don’t matter, baseball can be baseball and fans can be fans, enjoying the promise of things to come and the relief of knowing that every year offers a clean slate.