For baseball fans, the phrase “pitchers and catchers report” carries great anticipation. It means that winter is almost over, and baseball season is right around the corner. For the Atlanta Braves, back-to-back division champions in the National League East division, this year carries even more anticipation than normal.
The Braves are one of the most exciting teams in the league and have high hopes for the upcoming season. However, with the excitement and anticipation comes heightened expectations. The team will need to prove they can carry over their regular season success to the playoffs, something they have yet to do.
The Braves opened their slate of spring training games this past Saturday down in southwest Florida. This preseason period runs from mid-February to late March and begins when pitchers and catchers report to their respective team facilities in either Arizona or Florida. Position players will typically show up a few days later, and full team workouts will begin thereafter. In addition to the regular players on the opening day roster, there are often many minor league players and non-roster invitees present, either competing for a spot on the team or simply showcasing their abilities to the manager and coaches of the major league team. A series of exhibition games throughout the six weeks gives fans a first look of their team before the actual season starts. This also gives the coaching staff and front office a chance to evaluate minor leaguers and players who they wouldn’t usually see.
Spring training is actually a very important time period for the players. Most of them have been training throughout the off-season, but this is the first time the team has been together since September or October (depending upon if they made the playoffs).
Once they break camp, they will embark on a six-month, 162-game marathon of a season. Therefore, this is an essential time of physical, mental and organizational preparation. Anything that can give the team an edge or make life easier for the players is of utmost importance. This was the primary impetus for the decision by the Braves to build a brand-new training facility, which opened this year. In previous years, the team had been training near Disney World in Orlando, FL. But while this arrangement was advantageous for fans who could visit both the amusement park and the Braves, the team often had to travel long distances by bus to play exhibition games against other squads. This caused undue stress for players by lengthening their day considerably. The new facility, which is named CoolToday Park, will decrease travel times to most of the other spring training facilities. This year’s Braves team is considered as good as or better than that of last year’s roster. This increases the expectations of the fans, who are hoping for redemption after a humiliating defeat in last year’s postseason at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Atlanta team hopes that the work put in over the next month will contribute to another successful season.