By this time next week, each Major League Baseball team will have at least one series under its belt. I don't get romantic often, but if there's ever a proper time, the beginning of baseball season is just that.

Major League Baseball, 2012
While the NFL is unquestionably more popular, baseball still holds a precious spot in the hearts of Americans. Put it this way, how much public debate/outrage did Brian Cushing's PED-related suspension a few years ago draw compared to the Ryan Braun debacle this past baseball offseason? Why don't people freak out about new-school passing rules in the NFL paving the way for records being shattered the way they do about Roger Maris' or Hank Aaron's home run records falling?

What about the level of debate when it comes to the Hall of Fame? I rarely hear even a fraction of the debate -- or venom being spewed during said debates -- when it comes to the Halls of Fame in other sports.

It's because baseball is special in this country, has been since its invention and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The game is nuance, romance and passion all rolled into one. Fathers took their sons to games and played catch with them in the back yard -- whether Bondses, Griffeys, Alous or your average Joes -- and that tradition gets passed on generation after generation.

Baseball is the wonderful potpourri of scents the ballpark brings us. The crushed brick, the freshly mown lawn, the peanut shells, hot dogs, popcorn and beer.

Baseball is the Green Monster, ivy on the outfield wall, exploding scoreboards, waterfalls, splashes into McCovey Cove, the Big Apple and, yes, that new, weird Marlins home run feature.

Baseball is unique playing surfaces. In basketball, football, hockey and tennis there is one standard-sized field/court/rink. In baseball, the dimensions of the outfield walls and foul territory are unique to every venue, and in many cases not even symmetrical.

Baseball is numbers. It's 56 and .406 and 511. It's the numbers we've seen fall: 4,191*, 2,130, 61, 755. It's perfect games and no-hitters and hitting for the cycle.

*Since adjusted to 4,189

Baseball is Babe Ruth transcending sports, Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Hideo Nomo announcing his presence with authority and Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse in an All-Star Game. It is the controlled swings of Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki, the power pitching of Nolan Ryan and Bob Feller, Ernie Banks' infectious personality and Greg Maddux's know-how.

Baseball is the lock-down closers, from Rollie Fingers, Dan Quisenberry, Goose Gossage and Lee Smith to Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner and the greatest ever: Mariano Rivera.

Baseball is the Reds' opening-day parade and the World Series championship parades -- with the Yankees having won 27 of those titles, the most in North American professional sports history.

Baseball is the basis for classic movies and their transcendent moments, from Crash Davis' "this is what I believe" to Roy Hobbs' light-tower-smashing homer to "Wild Thing" to Terence Mann's "people will come" speech.

Baseball is clutch postseason home runs, from Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to Reggie Jackson's three bombs to Joe Carter's walk-off classic to David Freese's Game 6 blast. It is Albert Pujols crushing Brad Lidge, Derek Jeter becoming Mr. November, Kirby Puckett forcing a Game 7, Carlton Fisk's barely-fair shot, Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases and Bill Mazeroski taking down the Bronx Bombers.

Baseball is clutch postseason defensive plays, from Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder catch to the famed Derek Jeter cut-n-flip. It is Ivan Rodriguez holding onto the ball, Brooks Robinson robbing Lee May and Devon White preventing David Justice from extra bases.

Baseball is pitchers coming up huge in the postseason. It is Jack Morris over John Smoltz, it is Roy Halladay's no-hitter and Don Larsen's perfect game. It is Josh Beckett putting the Marlins on his shoulders and Bob Gibson's 17 strikeouts. It is Dave McNally throwing an 11-inning shutout.

Baseball is speed, where Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock and Maury Wills became immortal on the basepaths. It's Vince Coleman, Otis Nixon and Jose Reyes. And, oh yes, it's Dave Roberts swiping second against Mariano Rivera in Game 4.

Baseball is the past, where we'll never let anyone forget about the likes of Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell -- despite those four and many, many more not being allowed to play in the bigs due to unfortunate bigotry.

Baseball is a team sport where you don't get to choose who comes to bat, instead using a specified order. Would David Freese have ever happened in basketball? Nope. Albert Pujols gets the final shot, possibly kicking it to Matt Holliday or Lance Berkman. But in baseball, Pujols was on base for Freese's game-tying triple in Game 6. And sometimes you do get the man you want, like the Diamondbacks did with Luis Gonzalez in 2001.

Baseball is the dulcet tones of Vin Scully, still covering Dodgers games by his lonesome at the age of 84. It is Red Barber, Mel Allen, Bob Uecker, Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Harry Kalas and Ernie Harwell.

Baseball is wily veterans like Jamie Moyer and young phenoms like Bryce Harper.

Baseball is rivalries. It's the Yankees-Red Sox, the Cubs-Cardinals, the Giants-Dodgers ... and now it's the Angels-Rangers.

Baseball is nicknames, from Old Hoss Radbourn to Stan the Man to Hammerin' Hank to the Iron Horse to the Big Unit to Doc and Doctor K. It is Charlie Hustle, the Big Hurt, Crime Dog, Donnie Baseball, The Splendid Splinter, Godzilla and Pudge. It is The Kid (R.I.P., Kid). And so many more classics.

Baseball is the managers. From the epic blowups of Lou Piniella, Earl Weaver, Jim Leyland, Ozzie Guillen and Bobby Cox to the laid-back Joe Torre. It is Tony La Russa, Casey Stengel, Sparky Anderson, John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Connie Mack and Trader Jack.

Baseball is Day 162, where last season we saw an Evan Longoria walk-off cap the most historic final day in the sport's history. It is sometimes Day 163, when a Matt Holliday slide can cut his chin and advance his Rockies. It's Day 1, where every single team has the right to believe this is the year for a World Series championship, past results be damned.

Baseball is our National Pastime. And it's back this week. We here at Eye on Baseball look forward to taking in this coming season's memories with you.

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