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Finally, Spring Is Really Here : Whatever its woes, baseball's back, and that's a happy occasion

April 05, 1993

Although no games are being played in Southern California today, the return of the baseball season on this Opening Day is welcome. Baseball--like everything else, it seems--has been undergoing change, and there is a certain uneasiness in the air about where it is heading. Yet , this is a game that somehow never disappoints in its capacity for renewal, even if it arrives at our doorstep at winter's end suffering from its own curious brand of cabin fever.

To many observers, the owners appear more stubborn and self-serving than ever. Players are associated less with individual franchises than at any time in the past, and many of the restive fans regard them, as a group, as spoiled and overpaid.

Increasingly, it is fans alone who provide baseball with its sense of history and quality of being centered. They have spent much of the winter watching in dismay as today's stars and tomorrow's hopes move to new time zones. They have gone to free agency, escaped in the expansion draft or been traded as owners slash payrolls in a frantic effort to make the game's complex economics work for their franchises.

And there are many larger issues still to be resolved after today's celebrated first pitch. There is still no commissioner for a sport trying to reckon with such complicated questions as revenue sharing between rich and not-as-rich teams and a realignment of the leagues to increase the number of playoff hopefuls.

But as always, baseball reliably brings new hopes and surprises. Some familiar faces, like former Angel Don Baylor, now manager of the Colorado Rockies, and former Padre Benito Santiago, of the Florida Marlins, will be fascinating to watch as two expansion franchises give it a run. The Angels relinquished front-line pitchers Jim Abbott and Bryan Harvey, took a deep breath and crossed their fingers with a youth movement. There's optimism at Dodger Stadium with a healthy Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry and Orel Hershiser.

As if to greet baseball's return, spring thankfully has been in the air recently. After a dreary winter of rain and economic malaise, Southern California has blossomed with brilliant colors. And an occasional true-blue sky dome overhead reminds us what a wonderful setting we have for baseball. Today, we forget our cares and gather, if only for a moment, at the TV set to watch the season's inaugural game. We have heard the prognostications from training camps in Arizona and Florida, and now, in joy and anticipation, it's time to get on with the grand old game.

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