Tuesday, February 5, 2013

By Ellen Bell - AngelsWin.com Columnist

I’m a Spring Training Veteran. For the past 11 years, I haven’t missed a March in Tempe. Every year holds special memories, but last year was different. 

Last year was epic.

It was no longer the lazy, laid-back collection of afternoon games in the desert sunshine.    

Albert Pujols was was in town and the stakes had gone through the roof. Major League Baseball focused its attention on little Tempe Diablo Stadium with expectations that even the most optimistic fan couldn’t fathom. 

A lock to win the AL West? We’re used to that. Best rotation in the game? That’s a little less familiar. But heavy favorites to win the World Series before a single pitch had been thrown? That’s rarified air, even for Halo fans. 

The result was a spring season that was off-the charts. Opening Day in Tempe had all the excitement of the first game at Anaheim. Seats were packed. Fans were grinning. I’ve seen a lot of baseball and I’ve never been around more fans anxious to start a season that the Angels fans were last spring.

The AngelsWin.com FanFest was so popular that they had to change venues to make room for everybody. And when Arte Moreno agreed to stop by and spend an hour talking with fans of his team, I thought we had all the good karma we needed.  For an entire month, we basked in the warm glow of our own World Series dreams.

Then the season started, and you know the rest of the story.

But, my friends, that’s the beauty of baseball. After an off-season haunting by the Ghosts of Season Past, along comes Spring Training to make everything new again. 

For a few precious weeks in the spring, all fans share the same wish. Whether they live in New York or Kansas City, all baseball fans dream that this will be their year. Some are safe bets. Some are long-shots to make the playoffs. In the spring, all baseball teams have a chance.

There are no sure things in baseball. Last year’s season is a prime example of how teams that look good on paper don’t necessarily materialize on the field. But here comes March with its merciful clean slate ready to wash away any residue from last year’s disappointments. 

This year I’m doing what I always do at the beginning of February; I’m buying baseball tickets and making travel plans. Maybe I don’t have the wide-eyed optimism of last season, but I’m ready to see what Josh Hamilton and our recharged Angels will do this year. And I’m ready to be there at the very beginning.

You can do it. You can make it to Arizona this year, even if it’s only for a day or two. Hop on a plane or pack up the car. Tickets are still available and there are no bad seats at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The hotels are affordable, hot dogs are cheap, and Angels fans are everywhere.

The Angels are back in business. Don’t you want to have a front row seat?

Follow Ellen Bell on Twitter @AfternoonAngel
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