Thursday, February 16, 2017

Just 39 days to go before the Atlanta Braves open against the New York Mets

As of Monday afternoon, when this column was written, Hillcrest High School’s varsity boys and girls basketball teams were still alive in the state playoffs, and everyone that I’ve talked to is hoping that they will continue to do well. Both teams have made it all the way to the sub-regional round of the state playoffs this season, and it would be a lot of fun to see them both advance to the South Regional Tournament and beyond.

Both of these teams have been impressive this season and have gained reputations for being tough, gritty opponents who will take on anybody. Most of their schedules consist of larger schools, and the smaller schools on their schedule are among the state’s best. If Hillcrest continues to build on the success they’ve enjoyed this season, then basketball fans in the reading audience will have a lot to look forward to in the years to come.

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Sunday was an important date on the annual sports calendar as it marked the day that Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers began voluntarily reporting for Spring Training. While Opening Day is still over six weeks away, Sunday marked the somewhat unofficial start of the 2017 season.

I always look forward to this time of the year because most teams begin the year with a lot of optimism and just about every team feels like they can either win the World Series or at least make the playoffs. Eventually, the brutal reality sets in, but it’ll be a long time before any of the league’s 30 teams are mathematically eliminated from postseason competition.

The pitchers and catchers who began voluntarily reporting on Sunday won’t be by themselves for long. Other players will begin voluntarily reporting to their teams today (Thursday). Spring Training will rock on along for several weeks after that with Opening Day games set for April 2 and April 3.

The Atlanta Braves pitchers and catchers reported on Tuesday and began workouts yesterday (Wednesday). The full team will arrive tomorrow (Friday) and the first full squad workout will be held on Saturday. They’ll play their first Spring Training game on Feb. 25 when they take on the Toronto Blue Jays in Kissimmee, Fla. Counting a couple of split squad games, the Braves will play 33 Spring Training games between Feb. 25 and March 31.

The Braves will play their first regular season game on April 3 when they play the division rival New York Mets at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y. The Braves will play their first regular season home game, and their first game in their new stadium, SunTrust Park, on April 14 when they take on the San Diego Padres.

The University of Alabama’s baseball team will begin their regular season schedule tomorrow when they play Presbyterian College in Tuscaloosa at 5 p.m. The Crimson Tide will begin conference play when they play SEC opponent Missouri on March 17 in Tuscaloosa.

Auburn’s baseball team will also begin its regular season schedule tomorrow when they face George Washington University in Auburn at 2 p.m. Auburn will begin SEC play on March 17 when they take on Florida in Auburn.

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