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Football’s over, bring on the baseball season

We finally got that pesky Super Bowl out of the way, so now we can concentrate on the best day of the year for sports fans.

The opening day of baseball spring training.

OK, some people may not agree with that sentiment, but to put it quite simply, they’re wrong.

About a week ago, it looked like spring training in Florida and Arizona and the whole season might get pushed back a month, but the players’ union said they liked the current schedule and rejected a proposal from the owners for some changes.

One of the changes would have seen the start of spring training pushed back to mid-March with the season being reduced from 162 to 154 games. Instead, pitchers and catchers will report to their camps around February 16, with position players reporting a few days later.

What will spring training look like this year? Well, a lot of teams are saying they will allow limited numbers of fans into the park to watch the spring training games which start in March. The Boston Red Sox, for instance, have said they will sell 24 percent of the tickets for their park for games.

While the Toronto Blue Jays will hold spring training in Florida as usual, they expect to be back at Rogers Centre for their home games in the regular season after finishing last year in Buffalo because of border-crossing restrictions.

A couple of rules brought in last year for the shortened season are not slated for this year, but could still show up if COVID means the season has to be shortened again.

One of those was having doubleheaders be seven innings each to make the day shorter, while the other one saw any extra innings beginning with a runner on second base, again to try and make the games shorter.

That rule last season led to the unique occurrence of a leadoff hitter in an extra-inning game hitting a two-run homer, which probably caused some fans who may not have been aware of the rule change to suspect a typo in their morning paper.

Major League Baseball has a full season scheduled, including interleague play and teams like Toronto heading out to Seattle for games.

Of course, every detail about spring training and the regular season is at the mercy of COVID.

What will happen if, like last year, thousands of students in the U.S. flock to Florida for spring break, increasing the likelihood of COVID outbreaks at the ballparks? Nobody knows.

But for me and millions of other baseball fans, the important thing is that the game is back.

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