Can't you just feel the love in the air today? No? That's probably because your face is still frozen like Ted Williams' head from walking to class in sub-zero temperatures. Trust me, though — it's there.
What a day today is! Just when your flame of love starts to go cold and dark like the days outside and all hope seems lost, Feb. 14 comes along and relights the fire. The passion, excitement and hope you feel every year at this time returns, and you remember exactly what it is you love about this time of year.
Today, you find out whether all the money spent to woo that special one you've had your eye on will pay off and whether the chemistry will be there.
They might not tell you, but ladies, if they are honest, most guys will tell you this day has been circled on their calendars for months.
What? Today is Valentine's Day? Wow, do those last three paragraphs make me sound lame now or what?
Let me clarify. I am not, in fact, an overly sensitive sap who counts down the days and plans out how to do something that will not earn me endless ridicule from my friends. I was actually talking about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. I blame St. Valentine for the confusion, as this year V-day just happens to fall on one of the most exciting days of the year for most baseball fans.
In the middle of one of the worst months of the year with cold, snow, wind and whatever they call that mixture that finds its way to every crosswalk in Madison, we are given a remote sampling of something quintessential of summer. Nothing is more relaxing than sitting around listening to Bob Uecker bringing you an afternoon spring game on the radio.
What makes the spring training season so exciting is you get a chance to see the future of your favorite franchise. Rookies and no-names wearing uniform numbers that could double as the high temperatures on Arizona weather forecasts start right along side the stars whose numbers could one day be retired by their club. Batters who will be back to bagging groceries in a month get to face pitchers bagging millions.
Spring training also concludes the long offseason in which teams throw money around to try to tempt available prospects to join and complete the team. Free agents are in the market looking for commitment and some love from the Big Club.
When you think about it — money, commitment and love — it is easy to see the similarities between the day of the patron saint of lovers and the day of the patron saint of baseball lovers (Mr. Baseball, Uecker, who as a catcher would have reported today if he were still playing) which I guess is the reason the powers that be who determine holiday dates, namely Hallmark Corp., chose to have V-Day coincide with PACR-Day (Pitchers and Catchers Report Day).
You could even argue baseball is the most romantic of all sports, as seven Valentines, three Valentins and one Love have played over the years.
Since today is all about finding that special someone, let's run down a few teams that tried to do the same thing this offseason and will find out starting today whether they found their match by comparing these teams to people you probably know.
Playing the role of desperate-friend-in-such-bad-need-of-a-date-he-asks-the-first-thing-he-sees, this time around are the Kansas City Royals. The Royals made everyone stop and scratch his head when they gave Gil Meche, a career 55-44 pitcher, a five-year, $55 million contract basically just to show that they can land a free agent. The fact they egregiously overpaid for someone they probably didn't need that badly (setting the market for average starting pitchers well above what it should be; see Jeff Suppan) will probably end up killing the small-market club financially in the years to come.
Stepping up as the guy-who-breaks-the-bank-in-pursuit-of-the-hot-foreign-girl are the Boston Red Sox. It cost Boston $51 million just to flirt with Japanese star Daisuke Matsuzaka, then another $52 for Dice-K to agree to become a Red Sox player. Of course, Dice-K comes with the promise of selling lots of Red Sox memorabilia overseas, essentially making his contract money back. There's also a rumor he throws a gyroball, a pitch that seemingly defies physics by breaking in multiple directions.
The biggest mistake of the winter, the guy-who-gets-married-too-quickly, is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, seemingly thinking he is the only piece missing from a championship team, made a long-term commitment to Barry Zito: a seven year, $126 million contract — an incredible risk considering Zito already has seven years of experience and some wear and tear on his arm. The odds of him completing the contract in good health and in a contributing role with the club are roughly zero, and an injury could end his career at any time, leaving the club hung out to dry on the most expensive clothesline money can buy.
In the coming weeks and months, the sports world will see whether these budding relationships will work out or not. Today, however, everyone likes his date and everything looks rosy. Here's to you and your Valentine, or Valentin as it may be, having the best PACR-Day ever.
Ben is a sophomore majoring in political science. His plans for tonight include editing the sports section by candlelight with Poppy and watching the Badger game. Talk some baseball with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.