New year means baseball season is close

New year means baseball season is close

It's the first month of the new year and the holiday season has yielded to the Halladay season. Spring baseball will soon be upon us.

Events once tagged "To Be Announced" have been announced. The dates once labeled "To Be Determined" have been determined. The questions that remain for those across the Baseball Nation will be answered on the field and, in some cases, at the ballot box, during the next 12 months.

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That's right, it's that time of year again. Pitchers and catchers report in February and Opening Day is only a few short months away. Now, we know exactly when new Phillies ace Roy Halladay will make his return to Toronto. The teams that believe they have a date with destiny can now start flipping through the calendar in earnest.

Let's Play Ball! Or at least play catch.

Here's a look at the key dates for the upcoming 2010 season.

Hall of Fame balloting announced -- Jan. 6:
The first big event of the year is arguably the most important. The Class of 2010 is announced. Let the celebration and the debate begin.

Caribbean Series -- Feb. 2-8:
The crown jewel of the Caribbean, the tournament features the top Winter League teams from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. This year's version will be held on Margarita Island in Venezuela.

Pitchers and catchers report -- Feb. 18:
Let the reporting dates begin. The third Thursday of February marks the first day injured players, pitchers and catchers can report to Spring Training.

The first date all players may report to Spring Training is Feb. 23.

The mandatory Spring Training reporting date for all players is March 2.

Opening Day -- April 4:
The Yankees begin defense of their World Series title with three games against Boston at Fenway, marking the first time since 1950 that the two teams will start and finish the regular season playing each other at the venerable Boston ballpark. Their final regular-season meeting is Oct. 1-3.

Also, Major League active rosters must be set at 25 players on this date.

Target Field opens -- April 12:
In the Twins' first outdoor home game since 1981, Target Field will officially open as the Twins play host to the Red Sox.

Lackey faces ex-mates -- May 3-7:
New Red Sox starter John Lackey squares off against his former club, the Angels, in this four-game series at Fenway Park. Lackey and the Red Sox travel to Anaheim for the first time this season for a three-game series starting July 26.

Civil Rights Game -- May 15:
The fourth annual Civil Rights Game will feature the Reds and the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The game pays tribute to efforts made toward racial equality and diversity in baseball and society in the United States.

Interleague begins -- May 21:
It's time for the Junior and Senior circuits to come together and there is no better way to get this year's version of Interleague Play started than the annual Subway Series between the Yankees and the Mets that opens on this day in Queens. The 2010 rotation for Interleague Play is NL East vs. AL Central, NL Central vs. AL West, and NL West vs. AL East.

Strasburg comes home -- May 28-30:
With an arm like Stephen Strasburg has, anything is possible. The top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft could be on track for a homecoming in Southern California when the Nationals take on the Padres for three games in San Diego.

First-Year Player Draft -- June 7-9:
Who will be the next Strasburg? The best amateur players take their first step toward their big league dreams on this day. The First-Year Player Draft will be held in Secaucus, N.J.

Yankees at Dodgers -- June 25-27:
Let the storylines flow. The Yankees will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers as Joe Torre's managerial present and past come together in one of the game's most historic rivalries.

What's up Doc? Phillies at Toronto -- June, 25-27:
Oh, Canada! It's going to be a memorable reunion in the Great White North. New Phillies ace Halladay returns to Toronto for the first time since his trade from the Blue Jays.

Mannywood, Dodgers at Red Sox -- June 18-20:
In what will be a series to remember, former Red Sox star Manny Ramirez returns to Fenway Park for the first time since July 2008.

Home Run Derby -- July 12:
Angel Stadium transforms into a launching pad during one of the most popular events of All-Star week. Can Prince Fielder repeat as the champion?

All-Star Game -- July 13:
The biggest stars in the game come together for the Midsummer Classic in Anaheim. The AL has now won seven straight Midsummer Classics -- the third-longest streak in All-Star Game history.

Hall of Fame Inductions -- July 25:
The eyes of the Baseball Nation return to Cooperstown, N.Y., to celebrate the game and the game's best.

Non-waiver Trade Deadline -- July 31:
In all, 10 trades involving Major Leaguers went down on this day in 2009. Which team is a buyer? Which team is a seller? Many of those questions will be answered by this busy last day in July.

Postseason eligibility lists established -- Aug. 31:
Waiver trades are still a possibility during the month -- meaning players who would be traded need to pass through waivers first -- however playoff rosters must be set by the last day in August.

Rosters expand -- Sept. 1:
It's time to call up players from the Minor Leagues as the active roster is expanded from 25 to 40. For some teams, it's a chance to add reinforcements for a playoff push. For those out of the race, it's a chance to take a look at the top prospects for the future.

Postseason -- October/November:
The teams and dates are unknown, but the goal remains the same during this time of year: win a World Series title. The free agent filing period runs the first 15 days after the World Series ends.

Winter Meetings -- Dec. 4-7
Florida becomes the center of the baseball world as it plays host to the annual meeting of baseball executives. The four-day summit will be held in Lake Buena Vista.

Last chance -- Dec. 12:
The date marks the last day teams may tender 2011 contracts to unsigned players.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.