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By Josh Herzenberg - Strasburg Express

Someone PLEASE do me a favor and inform Mother Nature that it is, in fact, baseball season! I know this time of year is filled with sarcasm and joking matters -- being that April 1 is called "April Fools Day" after all. But c'mon.

While much of the Northeast is being burdened by nasty weather and storms, thousands of fans are still flocking to various stadiums around the country to watch their favorite ballplayers take the field once again. March 31, 2011 marks the 142nd Opening Day of professional baseball since the Cincinnati Red Stockings debuted on May 4, 1869. And since then, the game sure has changed. Today's attendance figures at games average in the tens of thousands, players make millions of dollars, and fans from all over the world tune in to watch "America's Pastime."

And yet I sit here looking out my window at snowflakes beginning to cover my car windshield.

I'm going to backtrack a bit to the word "pastime." It's a term that is thrown around pretty loosely, and is generally associated with baseball in the phrase I previously referred to. Princeton University defines "pastime" as: a diversion that occupies one's time and thoughts (usually pleasantly). The earliest known recollection of a baseball game being played in the United States was in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1791. Much like the nation that is just 15 years older than the game itself, baseball has progressed enormously during that first pickup game that was documented to be 80 yards away from the Pittsfield town center.

The game as I've experienced it is more than just a pickup game. I've been playing organized baseball since I was 5 years old, when the coaches (my father and his friends) would underhand the ball into us and we'd aimlessly whiff at the pitch in hopes to make contact. If we did, chances are we'd end up running the wrong way while the defense stopped picking flowers in the field long enough to haphazardly chase the ball. Sixteen years later, my dad is no longer pitching, and we no longer run to the wrong base (it does seem that the defense is still rather haphazard at times though). But we still play the game because of the pure enjoyment and pleasure we get out of its purity.

I am proud to call myself a college baseball player. Baseball has afforded me with many opportunities in life. I've had many triumphs and dealt with plenty of adversity through my baseball career. I've learned the art of time management. I've traveled the country playing in tournaments. I've made friendships that'll last a lifetime. To me, being a part of the game of baseball has become a way of life.

When I first received the offer to play for the newly formed Strasburg Express of the Valley League, I was elated. It's a new opportunity to meet new people, see new things, and play more great baseball. How fitting, as well, that I be playing in the beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley, whose roots trace deeply entrenched into America's history. My school, Oneonta State College, lies just 20 miles away from Cooperstown...the "birthplace" of modern day baseball and the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball is, as I said, "America's pastime." The opportunity I've been given to experience a fabulous combination of the historical aspect of America and baseball I don't believe is a fortuitous act. The Express season opener is still two months away and yet I am looking forward to becoming apart of the franchise, fully entrenching myself into the Shenandoah Valley and enjoying everything that it so superbly brings to the table.

So consider this intial blog post as an introductory notion, albeit perhaps a bit of a history lesson as well (for everyone reading and myself included). I hope you all have enjoyed the opening of the 2011 MLB season as much as I have, and I hope that you all can find your way out to the park this summer for some Valley League games as well. For the next few months I'll stick to my games in upstate New York before turning the page to NoVa...that is, of course, if Mother Nature got the message.

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