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A sure sign that spring is coming

Take a look outside your window today, and you will see the evidence that winter continues to hold its grip over the Tri-State Area.

It’s true — we’ve received a lot of winter weather during the last couple of weeks, and the forecasts show there are few signs of that trend letting up.

That said, there’s also reason for optimism — a look at the calendar reveals that spring will arrive in a little more than a month (at 5:37 a.m. on March 20, to be precise.)

If you look to our south, say to Florida, or the west, try Arizona, you will find the surest indicator yet that warmer weather is not that far off. That would be the start of Major League Baseball’s spring training.

Pitchers and catchers for the Pirates are scheduled to begin workouts in Bradenton, Fla., today, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday. It figures to be an interesting year for Pirates fans, as they will be able to see how second-year manager Derek Shelton and his team can navigate what is hoped to be a full, 162-game schedule.

Our area also contains pockets of Cleveland and Cincinnati fans, and their attention will shift to Goodyear, Ariz., which serves as the training site for both teams. Pitchers and catchers for the Indians and Reds open camp Thursday, with their full-squad work opening Monday.

It all leads up to the start of exhibition games, which for the Pirates comes Feb. 28 when they open Grapefrut League play in Sarasota, Fla., against the Orioles. They will meet Detroit on March 2 at Lecom Park in their pre-season home opener. The Indians and the Reds, meanwhile, will face each other Feb. 28 in their Cactus League opener.

Those games don’t count, but we’re sure fans will be watching them closely, looking for clues about what they will see when the regular season opens. That’s on April 1, when the Pirates visit the Cubs, Cleveland travels to Detroit and the Reds host St. Louis. Cleveland will open at home on April 5 when it meets Kansas City, and the Pirates will open at home on April 8 against the Cubs.

We don’t know yet when or if fans will be able to attend games at PNC Park this season, but the optimist in us hopes that will happen sooner than later. Maybe even before the weekend of June 18-20, when the Indians are scheduled to visit Pittsburgh.

That’s in the future, but for now, we hope you will sit back and enjoy spring training as the march toward opening day — and warmer weather — begins.

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