Spring training warms up players, winter-frazzled fans
By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - Major League Baseball spring training camps heat up this week with position players joining the early reporting pitchers and catchers, warming the hearts of fans suffering in the arctic chill of a brutal winter.
The stirrings of baseball in sun-drenched Florida and Arizona provide light at the end of a frigid tunnel and an optimistic renewal that fosters hope of better days ahead.
"It's a new beginning for all of us, each year," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Arizona on the joys of spring training.
Many teams opened their coffers to restock rosters, notably the Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox who could change the MLB landscape.
Comebacks by key players returning from injury will also earn close attention before Opening Day on April 5.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins inked the largest contract ever in North American sports -- $325 million for 13 years -- but will be tested this spring after missing the end of last season after being hit in the face by a pitch.
Stanton, 25, led the National League with 37 homers and drove in 105 runs while batting .288 despite missing the final 17 games after his beaning.
After suffering facial lacerations requiring stitches, facial fractures and extensive dental damage, he is being counted on to show unflinching resolve when next he faces an opponent's 95 miles-per-hour fastball. Continued...