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Friday, January 24, 2014

Why I'm Looking Forward to the 2014 Boston Red Sox’s Spring Training

The cold temperatures do a nice job of breaking a man’s spirit. However, even frigid conditions can’t temper the excitement over the dawning of a new baseball season, which for Boston Red Sox fans will kick off on February 15th when pitchers and catchers report to camp in Fort Myers, Florida. From there, it will all roll downhill until the regular season officially starts when the team visits the Baltimore Orioles on March 31st.

Spring training is a time to get to know the team. Sure, the roster is returning a lot of familiar faces but the attitude and feel of the squad changes from year to year. Heck, some seasons it even changes from week to week.

Personally, I like spring training. The games are glorified practices, and wins and losses really (or lack thereof) and what they can potentially bring, and in the worst cases, what they might take away from the team.

With less than a month remaining until spring training kicks off, here is what I am looking forward to most about the Red Sox’s camp:

-The kids. Boston recently placed nine players on’s 2014 top-100  prospect list. Having nearly 10 percent of the top prospects in baseball in the organization is an embarrassment of riches, and there are a lot of talented youngsters who didn’t even make the rankings. A good chunk of Boston’s future will be on full display this spring, although only a few will actually break camp with the team.

-The 2013 team had some of the best camaraderie seen in the majors in recent memory. Although key members of that unit, including Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Stephen Drew (for now) won’t be there, it will be interesting to see if they can continue the brotherly love. Win, lose or draw, the games are always more fun to watch if the players come across as enjoying themselves and playing together.

-In 2013, the ongoing team gimmick was the magnificent beards grown by a large portion of the roster. It appears that will largely be a thing of the past, as outfielder Jonny Gomes has already indicated the facial hair was so last year.

What will be planned for 2014? Perhaps nothing, but if another trend emerges, my vote would be for big belt buckles—assuming those pass MLB regulations muster. Fans should stay tuned on the edge of their seats because if there is something new, it will likely be fodder for popular t-shirt designs later in the season.

- Every spring training, an “It” player becomes the talk of camp. Last season, it was outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who seemingly hit around .850 and walked on water.

Although he went on to hit just .189 in 37 games in Boston during the regular season, his otherworldly performance before the games mattered, developed his reputation and solidified his stock as one of Boston’s most prized prospects.

With all the kids getting kudos on current prospect lists, any number of candidates might be this year’s Bradley. Seeing who pulls ahead around early March will be fun to say the least.

-The signing of outfielder Grady Sizemore may not have made big waves outside of Boston but his arrival is now being eagerly anticipated by the Fenway Faithful. Time and injuries have ravaged the 31-year-old but he is supposedly as healthy as he has been in years. He last played in 2011 and has since had major knee surgeries, and it remains to be seen what he has left in the tank.

It was only about five years ago he was considered one of the best players in the majors; a true five-tool player on the cusp of superstar status. Then things unraveled quickly.

Of course, the odds are stacked against Boston’s newest hero, but until he absolutely proves otherwise, there’s no reason to count him out before he even takes the field for the first time in a Red Sox uniform. Although his comeback may go off the tracks at any time, as long as he has a bat and a glove, and is still able to stand upright, there is always a chance he could go all Roy Hobbs.

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