With a bit more sunlight and warmth, March is the actual kickoff the the new year, right?

For those of us in the "I Hate Winter" club, March 1 is its own New Year's Day. What the rest of the world recognizes as the first two months of the year are really just the last cold, dark days of the winter. A new year? Hardly. January and Febuary are just two more months of holing up watching sports and award shows and avoiding scales. It's waking up in the dark, scraping ice, going to work, then heading home in the dark. It can get a tad mundane and downright depresssing.

Come March, we welcome back warmth — or at least a semblance of it. That yellow orb in the sky, which supposedly shines 300 days a year here in the high desert, makes it return. By my unscientific calculations, it has exactly eight more days off the rest of the year.

If March 1 is our New Year's Day, Tuesday must have been New Year's Eve. What better way to ring in New Years than listening to our new president's first speech to Congress? I have no idea what he's going to say, but I suspect there will be late-night tweets rating it as "huge" and maybe the "best speech ever."

Whether you think he's the kick-butt president we've needed for decades, or the biggest clown who has ever held the office, one thing you can't deny about Donald Trump's effort to Make America Great Again: it's entertaining. But I'm probably not the best barometer. To me, America was at its apex in 1979, when I had my first car and got my driver's license. Jimmy Carter was president and Iran had officially "defriended" us. History books say America wasn't great then, but greatness, I've come to learn, is pretty relative.

Spring is also the return to the one of the Madras area's great passions: following our two pro baseball players. The ups and downs of the once-local boys of summer are celebrated and endured (at least talked about) countywide.

Spring training started last week. The two Madras High School graduates in the Major Leagues — Jacoby Ellsbury and Darrell Ceciliani — are in sunny Florida with their respective clubs, the New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The pressure is certainly on high for Ellsbury. He has had three mediocre (certainly for him) seasons with the Yankees. This is year four of his massive $150 million-plus contract, and the impatient New York fans and media expect substantially more this year. The pressure on Ellsbury will be thick. (But maybe now that he's reached the pinnacle of his career — enshrinement into the Madras High School Athletic Hall of Fame — he should be able to relax. Sure.)

Ceciliani is hoping 2017 is his first full year in the Majors. After a couple of stints with the team that drafted him, the New York Mets, Ceciliani was traded to Toronto last season. After absolutely torching the ball in spring training, he still started the year in AAA, and was derailed by a shoulder injury in the first week of the regular season. Eventually he was called up to the big club, but never got hot with the bat and didn't see a lot of playing time.

The hometown fans will be watching, and rooting, for both. Play ball!

- Tony Ahern

Contract Publishing

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