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Baseball marks start of spring

The weather may not show it, but the calendar sure does.

This week the annual rite of spring finally comes to millions of Americans — including me — when the long and dreary winter finally gives way to those incredible words of “pitcher and catchers report for Spring Training.”

That’s right — baseball season is finally back and I am one of those die-hard fans who counts down the days to when Opening Day finally arrives. In the meantime, baseball fans like myself enjoy reminiscing about our favorite teams and the games we’ve been thrilled to witness and the losses that never seem to go away.

I was raised in the Bay Area of northern California and my baseball hero was the “Say Hey Kid,” Willie Mays. I do remember the first time my Dad took me to the old Candlestick Park to watch my beloved San Francisco Giants play. I don’t remember much about the game because I was so young, but I do remember how perfectly green the field looked and seeing Mays roam the outfield with Bobby Bonds and seeing Willie “Stretch” McCovey at first base.

To say I was hooked on baseball would be an understatement.

I lived and breathed with Giants of the ’70s. While my buddies were pulling for those “Swingin’” A’s in Oakland who seemed to be in the World Series every year, I toiled in mediocrity with my Giants. In Little League, I would pretend to be slick-fielding shortstop Chris Speir or if I was pitching, John “The Count” Montefusco.

It wasn’t until the 1980s when the Giants went out and got a sweet swinging lefty from Mississippi State and his fellow Bulldog teammate that San Francisco became relevant again. Will “The Thrill” Clark brought the Giants back into contention and Jeff “Bulldog” Brantley was shutting the door as the closer.

Finally, the Giants were in a World Series in 1989 after falling from the post-season the previous three years. And of course they were battling their cross-bay rivals in Oakland with the “Bash Brothers,” Mark McGwire and Jose Conseco.

Most baseball folks know this story when an earthquake just before Game 1 rocked the area and the World Series was delayed. The Giants got swept and returned back to the doldrums of mediocrity until manager Dusty Baker was able to restore San Francisco to contenders once again just after the turn of this century.

The Giants were back in the World Series in 2002 and looked to be ready to put away the Anaheim Angels in Game 6, leading 5-0 in the seventh inning and up 3-2 in the series. Baker pulled starter Russ Ortiz and the “rally monkey” fired up the Angels for an improbably comeback win. Anaheim took Game 7 and kept my Giants from yet again claiming a World Series title — the first in San Francisco history.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the Giants got back to the World Series and this time trounced the Texas Rangers to claim their first Major League Baseball championship for Frisco and first in my lifetime. Yep … I wept like a baby.

Two years later, my Giants won it all again, this time sweeping the Detroit Tigers in four games.

Two years ago, San Fran captured their third World Series title, marking their third championship in an even year. So the conclusion must mean this is “our year.”

But before we decide to crown my team the champs of the world, let’s get ready to play 162 games.

PLAY BALL!

Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler@oxfordeagle.com.