Baseball springs back on MLB.TV
Two games Wednesday kick off a busy exhibition slate
Let the games begin.
It is time for MLB.TV and live baseball on your computer screen.
It is time for lineup cards posted on a dugout wall.
It is time for a deep drive to left-center and a trot around the bases.
It is time for a 95-mph four-seamer blown past a hopeless swing.
It is time for a tailor-made double play and a stolen base on a 1-1 count.
This is your time as a fan, and it begins on Wednesday in spectacular style. For the first time since Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske and dropped to his knees last October in Philadelphia, real baseball begins with a full slate of 15 Spring Training exhibition games between Major League Baseball clubs.
No gradual starts this year, no array of MLB vs. college scrimmages. It is the earliest full slate ever, and it begins a long road that will culminate in possibly the latest finish to any year in baseball history. Because of the World Baseball Classic, it gets started in full right now already and the regular season starts a week later than usual and pushes into what ostensibly would be a Nov. 1 Game 4 in the World Series.
So savor the moment because it is already upon us. The MLB.TV schedule features more than 100 live Spring Training exhibitions, and it begins with two games on Wednesday, featuring Giants at Indians at 3:05 p.m. ET in Goodyear, Ariz., and then a Red Sox split-squad games against the Twins at 7:05 p.m. in Lee County, Fla. Now is the time to order your subscription to MLB.TV Premium if you do not already have one, so that you can work on your own camp fundamentals and get into the rhythm of watching live baseball as it builds up toward Opening Day.
The entire allotment of select Spring Training broadcasts, along with every out-of-market game of the 2009 regular season, is available as part of MLB.TV. Now in its seventh season, MLB.TV will introduce significant upgrades to its Premium product for Opening Day. The new MLB.TV Premium will feature proprietary speed detection allowing a hi-definition quality picture on any screen size; live game DVR functionality; live game picture-in-picture capabilities; multi-game viewing options; home and away feeds for every available game; live game radio option; and real-time player tracker alerts for live at-bat look-ins.
Right now, you just need to get into the groove as millions have done before with this technology. It is all about welcoming back the live aspect of the game after a winter of talk, and the technology helps make it fun to be a fan in this era.
That Red Sox vs. Twins game will be like an MVP reunion right out of the gates. Dustin Pedroia, Justin Morneau and Kevin Youkilis finished 1-2-3, respectively, in the 2008 American League MVP voting. Look for them all in that opener.
Tim Lincecum comes off a brilliant Cy Young Award season for the Giants, and you can watch his first return to the mound as he starts against Grady Sizemore and the Tribe in Cleveland's brand-new Cactus League facility.
"When I think about the future," Sizemore said in Arizona, "it's tomorrow. It's not years down the road. It's preparing for tomorrow."
Indeed. It is time to focus on the present, on the long-awaited return of live baseball, of pitcher vs. batter, of manager vs. manager, of a right fielder's strong-armed throw to the plate and a safe-or-out call by a hovering umpire.
It is time for baseball games.
Just think how much fun it will be on MLB.TV this Saturday afternoon: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia. Some of the same Phillies fans who were at their triumphant World Series clincher will be enjoying the sunny stage of Clearwater as Evan Longoria comes up to the plate once again for the Rays club that shocked everyone with an American League pennant. It might feel like old times as you watch Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena. The game itself will be as opposite as possible in terms of historical significance, obviously, but the circumstances will remind you about the great continuity of Major League Baseball.
Thursday will feature four live games on MLB.TV: Astros at Braves, Marlins at Mets, Rays at Yankees and D-backs at Indians. On Friday, subscribers will be able to see Cardinals at Mets and Padres at Indians. In addition to Saturday's big spring rematch between the world champs and the Rays, MLB.TV will feature Twins at Yankees.
It will be time at last to see for yourself what newcomers like Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett look like in pinstripes. It will be time to see for yourself how it feels with J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez working late innings for the Mets. Same with Brian Fuentes relieving for the Angels, John Smoltz working for Boston instead of Atlanta, and a future Hall of Famer named Ken Griffey Jr. back in a Mariners uniform the way it all began so many baseball seasons ago.
MLB.TV subscribers could see Griffey playing against his previous team already when the Mariners are at the White Sox on Monday. Just last October, he was gunning down Michael Cuddyer with a perfect throw from center field to home plate, and that along with Jim Thome's solo homer ended Minnesota's season and put Chicago into the AL Division Series against those red-hot Rays.
It's all back now.
It is the World Baseball Classic and 16 nations, coming in March. Look for warmup games between teams in that tournament and Major League teams. The first chance to see that live on MLB.TV is scheduled for next Tuesday, when Derek Jeter and Team USA play the Yankees. That same day, Team Canada plays Toronto at the Blue Jays' camp in Dunedin, Fla.
A day later, it's White Sox at Cubs, just to tempt you, just to make you wonder more about the possibilities far, far ahead this year. Could it be a Windy City World Series? Both teams made the playoffs last year. At this time of year, you never know. But at this time of year, you finally get to watch them start working toward it.
It is time for a single grounded through the left side of the infield, just beyond the glove of a diving shortstop.
It is time for a smash off the outfield wall, maybe even hit as hard as Pete Incaviglia hit one during a Spring Training game in the 1980s. It was at the Rangers' spring home then in Pompano Beach, Fla., and Inky hit it so hard, the ball actually went through the wall.
It is time for great hitters to work on getting the head of the bat on the ball, getting the feel that will seem so natural come summer, except for the occasional slump.
It is time for Ichiro to spray singles to all fields, for Albert Pujols to get into 30-plus-homer form, for Randy Johnson to work toward what likely will be a 300-win milestone, for Jason Varitek to handle a pitching staff, for Matt Holliday to play in new yellow colors, orf the national pastime to show itself off once again. It is time for fans to watch live on MLB.TV and begin their daily patterns that will become so familiar and expected one August day.
It is time for fans to watch live on MLB.TV and begin their daily patterns that will become so familiar and expected on August day.
Let the games begin.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.