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Heralding in a new year

For, lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land

Those lines from the Song of Solomon were actually spoken by longtime Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell at the start of spring training each year, yet I prefer to think of them at the start of each season.

At the onset, they make you think of hope and rebirth, and we need a little hope around these parts, don't we?

But this isn't some story that claims the hopes of millions ride on the backs of 25 young men and their crusty leader when they begin the season this afternoon.

Rather, it's a reminder. The story that contains the poetic lines that Ernie read yearly wasn't just about banishing winter. It wasn't just about the start of something new.

It's a love story.

The end of each season is a bit frightening. Every fall there is a risk. You know it will never be the same as when you last saw them. Whether the losses were expected or not, it's hard to prepare for them. We'll miss you, Placido and Curtis, Marcus and Fernando, Brandon and Nate.

Yet that's why the start of every new season is so important to us, too. We've gone through the long, cold winter days and nights by ourselves. But today, we wait no more. Welcome back. Justin and Rick, Magglio and Miguel. It's been a long time. It's so good to see you, again. Yes, even you, Jim.

Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages.
Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
and if the pomegranates are in bloom:
there I will give you my love.

We love the Tigers because they're ours, and because we choose to again every year. We loved them before they won, and before they lost. We loved them before a single player on the team was born, even if we didn't know it.

And we love them, too, because it was the team loved by those whom we loved. Fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. Each new season gives not just opportunities for something new, but also to remember something special, too.

So we stand reunited today on the precipice of 162 games spread across nearly 200 days. Anything can happen, yet we do not require anything does.

All we desire is our beloved baseball team standing on the stairs of the dugout and two words from the umpre's mouth.

The winter has past.

"Play ball!"