Wednesday at Spring Training in Arizona and Florida gave baseball fans what they've been craving since the last out of the World Series in late October. Once again, for the first time this year, Major League teams faced each other in ballparks full of people, with umpires, hot dogs, cotton candy and box scores.
Today, we're reminded that the 2014 season starts here and doesn't end anytime soon. Day two is upon us, and along with another full slate of Cactus and Grapefruit League action, there are storylines all over the American and National Leagues that demand attention.
Fortunately, there are many places where fans can focus that attention. Games are being streamed daily on MLB.TV and on the MLB.com At Bat mobile app, which also will bring the live updates and on-the-spot news coverage that have become staples of MLB.com's coverage of every team and every game.
On Thursday, the eyes of the baseball world are locked in on Tampa, Fla., where the Yankees' legendary shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter, is making his first spring appearance, kicking off what he announced would be his final year as a professional baseball player. The game is being streamed live and free on MLB.TV.
"I'm looking forward to getting out there," Jeter said. "I think everyone, when Spring Training starts, looks forward to getting the games underway so they can get into a routine. The first few days of Spring Training, it's just going through a lot of drills, trying to get in baseball shape. Once the games start, you can get into a daily routine, so I'm looking forward to that."
Jeter hasn't played in a game since last Sept. 7, and only played in 17 games in 2013 because of complications in returning from the broken left ankle he suffered in the playoffs in 2012.
"The good thing for us is that everything he's done has been good and has been positive," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "So last year, where we had some concerns with the way he was running or the way he was moving, we haven't had any of that this Spring Training."
Elsewhere today, the World Series-champion Red Sox play for the first time this spring, although it won't be in official Grapefruit League capacity. Boston is hosting Northeastern University, and Boston College in the doubleheader nightcap afterward.
"Much like everybody else -- I'm really looking forward to it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "That's a start. But I think at this point in time in camp, you run through the team fundamentals, individual defense, all those things, and guys are looking forward to getting games started."
That will also be the case for the Cubs, whose split-squad game in Mesa, Ariz., against the D-backs will feature two much-anticipated debuts. The first will be the lid-lifter for shiny new Cubs Park, the Cactus League's newest ballpark. The second will be new Cubs manager Rick Renteria's first nine innings at the helm of this iconic franchise.
"I think everybody's about at that point where they're ready to get out there," Chicago second baseman Darwin Barney said. "We're excited about the new stadium, and we're excited to get this thing rolling."
That attitude is being shared by other teams getting their first game action in today. The Milwaukee Brewers will kick off their spring schedule with a road game against the A's at Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 3:05 p.m. ET. The Mariners and Padres begin their Cactus League slates in Peoria, Ariz., also at 3:05 p.m. ET, and the world will see for the first time what Robinson Cano looks like in a big league uniform that doesn't include an "NY" on it anywhere.
The Rangers and Royals play each other in their first games, too, with Shin-Soo Choo making his Texas bow in the stadium the two clubs share in Surprise, Ariz., at 3:05 p.m. ET.
Today will also feature rematches of Wednesday games between the Braves and Tigers, the Phillies and Blue Jays, and stadium mates Cleveland and Cincinnati. In Jupiter, Fla., the Marlins host the Florida International University Panthers, while the other half of Arizona's split squad will play the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., at 3:05 p.m. ET in yet another matchup between the two clubs that will meet in the 2014 Opening Series in Sydney, Australia, on March 22.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who loves baseball, the excitement is growing by the day.
"We'll see how it goes tomorrow," Cano said after Wednesday's workout. "It's the first time and I'm excited. I can't wait."