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The Sweetest Sounds

For anyone who works in baseball, or who simply loves the game, the offseason is marked and measured by holidays. Barring any highly unusual circumstances, you're usually home by Halloween (no small matter when you have kids). Thanksgiving seems to be upon you before you've even had a chance to decompress, and -- after the winter meetings and the accompanying flurry of activity -- Christmas comes in what feels like a matter of days, New Year's Eve in a matter of hours.

Then comes the dead period, also known as January, when time seems to crawl by. You dig out of the snow. You fight the flu. You digest the latest steroids revelations. (Some years, you inaugurate a president.) You feel as if you can barely remember what a bat hitting a ball, or a ball hitting a glove, sounds like. You watch some NFL playoffs, because it seems like the thing to do, and at least you can be assured none of those players are using steroids -- because no one from Congress, SportsCenter or the Commissioner's office is bloviating about it.

Finally, typically on the Monday after the Super Bowl, something (perhaps an overdose of guacamole) triggers that innate mechanism in the body by which your mind is filled with thoughts of baseball. Spring training is almost here.

By Valentine's Day, if you're not Florida or Arizona, something feels dreadfully wrong.

This will be my 12th year covering baseball, and I've grown accustomed to spending Valentine's Day alone in some place warm. Last year, I dined at this joint on the water in Cape Canaveral. I went early, so as not to appear too pathetic. I wore shorts. I had the grilled fish of the day. It was grouper. Back home, my wife had mac-and-cheese with our then-1 1/2-year-old. They toasted to the occasion, wine-glass-on-plastic-sippee-cup.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and I feel the innate pull of Florida. I should be on a plane, or in a rented convertible, listening to a newly created Spring Training '09 iPod playlist and thinking about Nick Johnson's wrist, or the battle for the Mets' fourth outfielder job. But this spring, my departure to the Sunshine State will be delayed by a few weeks, as the Sheinin household awaits a new arrival. Tomorrow night, I will happily take my wife out for dinner and hope she does not go into labor before the dessert course.

The Post, of course, will have it all covered. Barry Svrluga, who officially covers the Redskins for us but who we all know remains a Baseball Guy at heart, will be in Tampa early next week to chronicle Alex Rodriguez's highly anticipated arrival at Yankees camp. Come to think of it, I'm not too disappointed at missing that one.

And in Viera, Young Chico Harlan -- who, in fact, is already there -- will be detailing every move, every note of optimism and every pulled hammy of those suddenly much more interesting Washington Nationals. Boz will be getting there soon, too, and will try to explain to us how the Nationals, if everything breaks right for them, could win 90 games this year, and one of us will convince him not to write that.

For Chico, it's his first spring training, which means he gets to experience the joys of his first lunch at the famed Viera Panera, his first 8 a.m. media briefing with Manny Acta, his first four-hour traffic-jammed drive down I-95 to Fort Lauderdale.

As we speak, he may have already experienced the first glorious sounds of baseballs hitting gloves, and bats hitting balls, in an empty stadium, under sunny skies.

Those are the sweetest sounds of spring -- unless, of course, you are waiting on the arrival on a new, tiny human being, whose first cry as she enters the world is like Christmas, the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day all wrapped up in one.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 13, 2009; 10:48 AM ET
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Dave, congrats on the new baby. My youngest son was born on Valentine's Day. So that day has added meaning for us as well.

Posted by: AshburnVA | February 13, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations on the new arrival, Dave. I hate to bear bad news about Halloween to someone with small kids but if you look at MLB's calendar you'll see that the World Series won't start until October 28, and that Game 7 (if needed) wouldn't be played until November 5. So Derek Jeter may have to hand over the title of "Mr. November".

Posted by: greggwiggins | February 13, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations on the new arrival, and thank you for a moving and evocative post.

Will look forward to reading all of the Post coverage (and vicariously experiencing the thwacks of ball on glove or bat until we can all hear the sounds for ourselves).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 13, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey, congrats, Dave!

And thanks for a great post.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 13, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Many blessings to you and your family!

Thanks for this well-written post . . . I'm preaching on Sunday, and it is altogether likely that some reference to the hopeful sound of ball hitting mitt will make it into my sermon.

Peace to you, and happy Spring Training!

Posted by: chrisduckworth | February 13, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

awesome, awesome post. Thanks and good luck.

Posted by: NatsNut | February 13, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Dave, congrats on the new arrival and thanks for the wonderful post. A round of applause for the Post powers that be for arranging baseball coverage so you could be home when you need to be.

Posted by: utec | February 13, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Dave, you summed up my feelings towards Spring Training perfectly (and poetically). Thank you and congratulations!

Posted by: wblake04 | February 13, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Good luck to you and your family, both with the dessert course and the more important matter.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 13, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Boom Boom, that was an awesome post. Thanks.

Congrats on your new arrival as well!

Posted by: NattyDelite | February 13, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Everyone's already said it. Terrific post, and congratulations to you and the missus.

Posted by: Scooter_ | February 13, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

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