Tuesday was "Truck Day" at Fenway Park, a sort of first pitch that sends equipment southward and optimism northward. It's become fashionable to scoff at the notion of Truck Day, especially when it's labeled "Truck Day Presented by JetBlue Airways."
That's missing the point. Truck Day is a very real, symbolic day on our calendar. The rest of the country has Groundhog Day; we have a truck leaving Yawkey Way. And it doesn't matter if the truck sees its shadow or not — once it heads south, we know winter's days are numbered.
Sunday is the next important day on the baseball calendar. It's when pitchers and catchers report (at last check, there was no sponsor attached to reporting day. Yet.) For a number of reasons, there is as much excitement and anticipation surrounding the start of spring training as any we've had in recent years.
For one thing, it's been one of the snowiest winters on record. We've seen hundreds of roofs collapse, seen snow banks pile up while town budgets dwindle down and seen a half-dozen school days canceled. We've learned that calcium chloride in the leg of panty hose can open up an ice dam. We've waited in lines to buy a roof rake. We've crossed our fingers as neighbors watch water pour in through the ceiling, and hoped our shingles stay water tight.
Mostly, we've said, "Enough!" It's been a long, snowy winter, and the sights and sounds of the Red Sox playing baseball in the sun are exactly what we need to snap out of our Seasonal Affective Disorder.
But that's not the only reason we're excited. The Sox hit the Gulf Coast with (at least on paper) the best team in the American League. With all due respect to Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, it's been the greatest offseason in the nine-year history of the Henry/Werner/Lucchino ownership group.
The Sox made the biggest trade of the winter, bringing in Adrian Gonzalez. They made the biggest positional free-agent signing with Carl Crawford. They significantly improved the bullpen with Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. They added low-risk, high-upside types like Andrew Miller. And they kept working right up until the truck got rolling, signing Dennys Reyes and Alfredo Aceves to further strengthen the bullpen.
They did all of this as the Yankees embarrassed Derek Jeter, struck out on Cliff Lee and fought over Rafael Soriano. It's not just how they made themselves better this offseason; it's how no one else seemed to operate with the same urgency.
In other words, the Sox put out notice that they are back in business for 2011. After missing out on the postseason last fall, they've put together a team with the Three P's (Pop, Pitching and a 'Pen) that should be plenty entertaining this summer. It's hard to imagine them not playing in October.
Of course, that's a long way off, but spring isn't. It's right around the corner, even if the view outside the window looks like the Arctic Circle. We know this because the truck is headed to Florida. Pitchers, catchers and summer are right behind it.