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Baseball spring fever breaking out

Got spring fever bad, even if it’s still February.

It’s baseball season.

Thank God!

I am so ready.

The ongoing NFL labor negotiations? Zzzzzzzzzz.

A looming NBA lockout? Couldn’t care less.

NHL? Not my thing.

Lets play ball!

I’ve been in the baseball mode for awhile.

Long before the Super Bowl, in fact.

Moments after the Philadelphia Eagles, my team, lost to the eventual NFL champion Green Bay Packers in the wildcard round on Jan. 9, all my football stuff got put away and out came my baseball stuff.

Phillies T-shirts. Pirates hats. Marauders T-shirts. All of it.

That includes the baseball glove I like to keep in my pickup truck to bring to games at McKechnie Field.

Still waiting to catch my first foul ball, though.

Pirate spring training schedules and brochures litter my desk here and at home.

Got the obligatory tearsheet of the 2011 Grapefruit League schedules out of the Herald’s sports section with games I want to see highlighted in yellow.

What a wonderful time of year.

The notion that spring training is like a rite of renewal may be overdone, but it’s still true.

The smell of freshly cut grass.

The pop of the ball striking a catcher’s mitt.

The crack of bat on ball.

They still resonate no matter what your age.

Especially that last sound.

Even now it sends me back in time.

Way back.

I can remember listening to the radio as a boy growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., while the borough was still trapped in winter’s grip.

I’d listen raptly to Tom Harmon’s reports on ABC from spring training camps around Florida, mesmerized by a distinctive sound in the background.

Bats hitting balls.

A soundtrack of spring training.

It’s over before you realize it, too.

How many years have gone by where we said, hey, got to catch a few games, right?

Next thing you know, ballclubs are breaking camp to head north to start the regular season.

I made that mistake too many years when I was on the other coast.

Not anymore.

Not with McKechnie Field in our backyard.

The ol’ ballpark on Ninth Street West ought to be jammed for today’s home opener against Tampa Bay.

I’m planning to be there a bunch the next four weeks.

May have to play hooky from work.

Of course, after the Pirates come the Marauders for their second season in the Florida State League.

Which reminds me -- got to renew my season tickets.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The sounds of spring training and the Grapefruit League await.

There is another sound I did not mention and it’s always worth waiting seven innings to hear it.

Everybody singing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Beautiful.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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