Greetings from Fort Meyers

The grass looks a whole lot greener after all. Another day, another 6 inches of snow and sub-zero wind chills—not exactly what we signed up for on Admitted Eagle Day. On March 3rd, escape the Mod Lot’s frozen tundra and venture south of the Mason-Dixon line. North Carolina and West Virginia sound fun, but bats and gloves build pretty bad homes on Appa. Boston College baseball has a different destination in mind. Think warmer. Mojitos and margaritas on the beach? Scratch Punta Cana, Miami or Cancun off the list—just a bit too warm.

Set the GPS to 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers, Florida. Destination: JetBlue Park.

Time for spring training: two words that mean far more than what meets the eye. Spring training marks a start to longer days. It means being a day closer to breaking out last summer’s pair of Chubbies. Most importantly, it marks the beginning of a new sports year—the light at the end of an iced-filled tunnel.

First up to the plate: The Boston Red Sox.

Traditionally, Northeastern University and Boston College kick off the Red Sox Grapefruit League season with a doubleheader. Founded in 1908, the Grapefruit League features fifteen of Major League Baseball’s thirty affiliates. The annual matchups between the three teams provide college players with a unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Imagine pitching against childhood idols such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Pablo Sandoval.

For that matter, imagine taking Daisuke Matsuzaka’s deep on his first pitch in a Sox uniform. Boston College’s Johnny Ayers hit a double in his first at-bat against the then Japanese phenom. Keep in mind Matsuzaka signed a mega-million dollar deal just north of the $50 million mark before joining the Sox in Fort Myers.

While the 2007 Eagles floundered en route to losing 27 games, the Red Sox captured their second World Series title in four years. Sure, $50 million buys a superb third starter for the rotation, but some things prove too invaluable to purchase. For Ayers, telling his children and grandchildren that he recorded a hit against the most hyped prospect since Ichiro Suzuki beats hitting the lottery any day.

Spring training offers more than just living Field of Dreams for a day. It exposes college talent to local scouts, eager to lay their hands on any raw potential before July’s fast-approaching MLB draft. Holding the seventh pick in this year’s draft, the Red Sox figure to keep a close eye on the nation’s top amateur talent. Coincidentally, major league scouts project the drafting of Eagles' outfielder and first baseman, Chris Shaw, within the first ten rounds. Shaw, a junior from Lexington, Massachusetts, possesses a solid 6’3’’ frame and a fluid swing, making scouts salivate over his big-time power potential. What better way to sneak into the draft’s first round than teeing off against the likes of Clay Buchholz or former first-rounder Rick Porcello?

The 2015 exhibition match figures to draw massive crowds at JetBlue Park. The Salem News reports Major League Baseball will be featuring Pete Frates in the game’s festivities. Frates, famous for escalating the Ice Bucket Challenge to new heights, remains a rallying cry for the ALS movement and for people here at BC. New MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred plans to launch baseball season in grand fashion, tossing the game’s first pitch. Manfred serves as an ambassador for Pete Frates’ family, who remain uncertain of their possible attendance. Having battled ALS for over three years, Pete’s declining health makes travel difficult. Regardless of whether Frates makes it to Florida, though, he will be there in spirit; wearing Frates’ old uniform number, both teams will don the number 3 to honor the former Eagles captain.

So while winter feels bleak and midterms loom frightful, let these two words guide you into spring break:

"Play Ball!"

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