These first few April weeks are the best in the sports year

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I know that the old Christmas carol says that December is “the most wonderful time of the year,” and I agree. But the first few weeks in April certainly come close.

If you’re a sports fan like I am, it’s really hard to beat the excitement that always takes place this time of year. First, we’ve got the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments getting down to the “Final Four” and about to crown their champion. Now that prohibitive favorite Baylor has been knocked out of the women’s event, I’m anxious to see if my Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Note to national sports media, it’s still just “Irish,” not “Lady Irish”) can finally break through and get a second elusive national title for Coach Muffet McGraw. They’ve been national runner-ups each of the last two seasons, including to Baylor last year.

Next week is just as exciting, as it’s the week of the Masters golf tournament. Before living in Bainbridge, I worked at a newspaper near Augusta, and had the chance to take photos at the practice rounds of the 2010 and 2011 tournaments. It is an experience that I will never forget. The golf course is absolutely gorgeous as the azaleas come into bloom. The smell of the course’s famous pimento-cheese and egg-salad sandwiches are in the air, and it’s fun to just stand on the course and listen for the roars coming from various holes as professionals sink lengthy putts.

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While there’s nothing that matches being on the course in person, technology certainly allows you to come close. High-definition television screens make the colors of Augusta pop alive in the comfort of the living room, and to me there’s no better way to spend that second April Sunday than curled up in front of the screen seeing who will end the day with the coveted green jacket.

However, my favorite part of the sports calendar is the start of Major League Baseball. I’m always excited to get baseball under way, but this year I’m even more pumped up, because of the strong moves that my favorite team — the Atlanta Braves — made during the offseason. With a line-up that now includes Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann (when healthy), I’m not sure there’s many easy outs for opposing pitchers.

With an offense that good, you really only need average pitching, but the Braves are better-than-average with arms like wily veterans Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm, and young budding stars Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Brandon Beachy (again, when healthy). I have very high expectations for this team, and I’m hoping that they live up to them this year.

Spring is in the air, along with the smell of freshly-cut grass and blooming flowers. It’s time to play ball again!