The snow may continue to fall — who knows, maybe till Easter this wacky winter — but baseball fans are following the first reports from spring training and counting the weeks until Opening Day. Sooner or later we’ll put away the shovels and winter clothes, start digging in our gardens, cheer the change from icy winds to warm breezes and turn our attention to the national pastime.
It’s years like this, after winters like this, when baseball seems to mean more to us than ever. Even those who don’t follow the sport have come to appreciate its seasonal symbolism — how the coming of spring and the start of baseball are forever intertwined in our national consciousness.
This particular spring in the metropolitan area will have an unmistakably autumnal feel, with the major story lines for both the Yankees and Mets focused on legendary stars who have retired or are entering the twilights of their careers, and the up-and-comers who might replace them. Mariano Rivera, the game’s most dominant relief pitcher, closed the book on his Hall of Fame career last September, and now we’ll see whether David Robertson can be the Yankees’ heir apparent. With only eight saves in his career, can Robertson fill Mo’s shoes?
Even the most casual sports fans will be drawn to the Derek Jeter countdown, after Jeter recently announced that 2014 would be his last season. Jeter has become nothing less than an institution at shortstop, anchoring the Yankees infield for almost 20 years, and this summer’s Jeter farewell tour may even outdo Rivera’s last year. He will be honored with gifts, ceremonies and standing ovations — which the Yankees faithful can only hope won’t distract him from his goal of leading the Bronx Bombers to one more World Series title before he retires.