The Cardinals and Miami Marlins will begin the season with the opening of Florida's new ballpark on Wednesday, April 4, followed by six openers the next day. The regular season will conclude on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
MLB announced the 2012 schedule on Wednesday, as the legendary Vin Scully was speaking for all of us last month when he declared that "we will be back" next spring. You can now find your favorite club's updated month-by-month calendar at each club's official team website to start planning ballpark outings.
Prior to Opening Day 2011 -- which was on Wednesday, March 30 -- Opening Days throughout the game had been held on Sunday or Monday each year since 1999, excluding special international events. The Marlins will host that inaugural game by replacing the legacy of the Orange Bowl in Little Havana, west of downtown Miami, with a venue that will seat 37,000 fans. New Marlins Ballpark will feature a retractable roof and offer spectacular views of downtown Miami, hence the 2012 team name change.
Marlins fans have recent history on their side in hopes of a perfect beginning. Five of the last six ballpark christenings have been won by the home team, most recently by Minnesota against Boston on April 12, 2010, at Target Field. Washington is the only club since the start of the 2000 season that has opened a regular season in a new home park -- typically christenings come after opening road trips -- and that was a walk-off victory over Atlanta in 2008 at Nationals Park.
There will be six Thursday openers for the second time in as many seasons. Those games include Phillies at Pirates, Blue Jays at Indians, Red Sox at Tigers, Braves at Mets, Nationals at Cubs (Stephen Strasburg at Wrigley Field would be a must-see) and Dodgers at Padres. Scully will be back in the broadcast booth that day, returning for an amazing 63rd season with the Dodgers.
Ten games, including nine more openers, are scheduled for Friday, April 6. The Orioles will be host that day to the Twins, and it will mark the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards -- the HOK-designed ballpark that began the now-common trend of retro-modern parks. Cincinnati always starts its season at home, because that is baseball tradition, and in 2012 it will happen on this day against those same Marlins.
"The Reds already are working with the Findlay Market Parade organizers on Opening Day 2012," said Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini. "No fans look forward to the start of baseball season more than ours."
The first full slate of 15 games is scheduled for that Saturday.
The 16th season of Interleague Play will feature many reprisals of past World Series, including Reds-Yankees and Pirates-Tigers (starting May 18); Mets-Yankees, Phillies-Orioles, Astros-White Sox, Blue Jays-Braves, Tigers-Reds and Rangers-Giants (starting June 8); Yankees-Braves, Pirates-Orioles, Tigers-Cubs (starting June 11-12); Phillies-Blue Jays, Red Sox-Cubs, Royals-Cardinals and White Sox-Dodgers (starting June 15); Cubs-White Sox, Giants-Angels, Braves-Yankees, Orioles-Mets and Dodgers-Athletics (June 18-19); and Cardinals-Royals, Giants-Athletics, Yankees-Mets, Rays-Phillies and Tigers-Pirates (starting June 22).
The primary Interleague rotation will match up divisions in each league: East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West.
In addition to Baltimore, there are a number of important anniversaries that will be celebrated in 2012.
The Red Sox will commemorate Fenway Park's centennial on Friday, April 20, when they face the Yankees -- 100 years to the date that Boston's American League club took on the New York Highlanders for the first game in the ballpark's storied history.
The April 10 home game against Pittsburgh will mark the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' first game at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers first played there in 1962 against the Reds. The starting lineup that day included Maury Wills, Jim Gilliam, Wally Moon, Duke Snider, Johnny Roseboro, Ron Fairly, Daryl Spencer, Willie Davis and Johnny Podres.
The Mets and Astros will each celebrate the 50th anniversary of their existence.
The Cardinals will open their home slate April 13 against the rival Cubs. It marks the latest home opener for the Cardinals since 1991, when the team's first home game was on April 19 vs. Philadelphia.
The Rays will not play on Sunday, Aug. 26, due to reasons related to Tampa's hosting of the 2012 Republican National Convention.
"Venues throughout Tampa Bay have made themselves available to the Tampa Bay Host Committee in connection with potential events for the 2012 Republican National Convention," Rays president Matt Silverman said. "We worked with Major League Baseball and the Tampa Bay Host Committee to ensure that Tropicana Field would be available for use on that Sunday and the following week."
The Yankees and Red Sox, always popular teams in the Bay Area, will make two trips to Oakland. The Bronx Bombers will play seven games at the Coliseum, including weekend series May 25-27 and July 19-22, while Boston will square off with the Athletics in Oakland six times in 2012 -- including a special Fourth of July date -- in playing series July 2-4 and Aug. 31-Sept. 2.
"This is the best schedule we have had in many years," said Jim Leahey, Oakland's vice president of sales marketing. "Besides 17 premium games, many of them on weekends, we also will have some great events and promotions, such as a July 3rd fireworks game with the Red Sox in town. In addition, 2012 will mark some important milestones, including the 40-year anniversary of Oakland's first World Series title and the 10-year anniversary of the record-breaking, 20-game winning streak. We will announce ways for A's fans to celebrate these historic achievements and more soon."
The Dodgers will be host to the Padres on April 15, which is Jackie Robinson Day throughout MLB -- honoring the Dodgers Hall of Famer who broke baseball's color barrier on that date in 1947. The first day of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft will be on June 4. The 83rd All-Star Game will be played on July 10 in Kansas City.
One never knows what drama those Oct. 3 matchups might harbor, but it is a safe bet that fans will greatly anticipate the end of the regular season at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox wind up with three games there, and perhaps by then, Alex Rodriguez (628 entering Tuesday) will have passed Willie Mays (660) for fourth on the all-time home run list.
A tradition goes on.