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Major League boost

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The wait is almost over.

Cue Spring, cue the lights, cue the organ and someone bring down the unscripted script, because Opening Day begins scene one.

Here begins the only day that all teams have the same record and the same reasonable goal of winning in October. Here, the Orioles share first place with the Yankees, while not even a billygoat can sour the zest of Wrigleyville.

Baseball and only baseball can begin in Spring, where hope bounds aplenty and the shadows of winter turn to shadows that separate the diamond into pitcher vs. batter. A vivid, fluid poetry of the sound of a bat rhymed to a slap of the glove dominates the air with the enthusiasm and roar of the crowd flowing from fan to fan as a pollen that spreads Spring Fever throughout.

But in a time when the American sports fan swarms to the real sports, baseball still runs with a carefree ubiquity. Where we find America’s most popular sport in a desperate state of affairs with a season in serious doubt, we see baseball as the old grandfather uttering, “Been there, done that, won’t happen again.”

What the general public calls boring to watch and a game that drags on far too long, fans call heaven, as attendance figures have continued to climb. According to MLB.com, 2010 marked the seventh straight season that baseball clubs eclipsed the 73 million mark in attendance, seventh-best in baseball history. The previous season drew even more fans for sixth-best in MLB history, all while America struggled through the worst economic crisis that our generation has seen.

Not to mention, five years ago the sport slogged through a scandal that rocked the sport from Bonds and Sosa down into the minors.

This new season will welcome a new era across the league without the aura of Torre, Cox and Pinella, yet with the same tradition that remains from the legends of Lasorda, Sparky and Stengel.

Yet concerns arise over the ascension of free agency and the spending of franchises across the league as killing the integrity of the game. Just last year the Yankees spent over $200 million on its roster alone. The American League champion Texas Rangers spent a smidgen over $55 million.

In fact, 14 of the 20 teams that played in the past ten World Series were not in the top five in team salary that season, with the highlight coming in 2008 from the hefty $43 million payroll of the Tampa Bay Rays — enough to earn them 29th highest. To put that in perspective, the combined salary of all-stars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in 2008 was $49 million, all for a team that missed the playoffs that year.

Baseball is back, a return more certain than the sun’s rising.

Cue the smooth green grass, the majestic blue sky and the cool breeze, because Spring is here. And with Spring comes baseball.

One … more … day.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Andrew Gastelum at [email protected]