No two words -when said in combination -get me more fired up than "Play Ball.''
That's especially true each spring when I hear those words for the first time since October.
They signify that Major League Baseball has arrived.
That for the next seven months, my favorite sport will take place on a daily basis.
That junkies like me will be able to dissect every boxscore of every game.
There's no sport like baseball, one of the few remaining untimed events in the world.
A well-pitched 1-0 game can last less than two hours.
A 14-13 slugfest can go into the wee hours of the morning.
As the late, great Harry Caray used to say, "You can't beat fun at the old ballpark.''
Yet, there really aren't that many old ballparks. Only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field have "character."
Yes, there are some great places to watch a game like Pittsburgh's PNC Park, but there also are a lot of plastic parks with little if any atmosphere.
Still, it's the greatest game ever invented. It has survived for more than 140 years with few rule changes -at least until this year.
The traditionalists among us scoff at the elimination of home plate collisions. If we want to see one of those, we'll have to be satisfied with reruns of Pete Rose crashing into Ray Fosse.
Then there's the instant replays and the manager's challenges. Haven't we learned our lesson from football that even after looking at 97 different camera angles the officials as often as not still make the wrong call?
Baseball has a wide disparity of teams. The haves not only have virtually unlimited funds but also are willing to spend those funds in order to win the World Series. The have-nots have to pinch pennies and often trade off their young talent before it becomes too expensive and breaks their undersized budget.
Although hope springs eternal at the beginning of every season, realistic fans of at least half the franchises know their team has little to no chance of making the playoffs.
Yet, let one of the pretenders get off to a fast start and the excitement and the size of the crowds rise, at least until reality finally sits in.
I've been a little disappointed that Major League Baseball not only let the Los Angeles Dodgers participate in the opening two games in Australia, but also chose the Dodgers to open the season in the continental 48 on Sunday night.
I understand they are the favorite to win the World Series, but can't we at least get a look at some of the other teams?
The great news is the Boys of Summer are back and playing ball.
To quote Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty, that makes me "happy, happy, happy.''
Contact Dave Poe at email@example.com