Washington Nationals: Pitchers and catchers report

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WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball prepares to cut a ribbon to inaugurate The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as Ted Lerner owner of the Washington Nationals stands with his wife, Annette Lerner prior to the spring training game against the Houston Astros on February 28, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Nationals defeated the Astros 4-3. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball prepares to cut a ribbon to inaugurate The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches as Ted Lerner owner of the Washington Nationals stands with his wife, Annette Lerner prior to the spring training game against the Houston Astros on February 28, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. The Nationals defeated the Astros 4-3. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /
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With pitchers and catchers gathered in West Palm Beach, the Washington Nationals are back on the field. Celebrate with us the return of baseball.

The 2018 Washington Nationals season is underway and not a moment too soon.

As pitchers and catchers pose for pictures while turning their heads and cough, another cold winter has passed. What happens between now and November remains a mystery, but you never want to know how a good book ends before you open it.

Although there will be plenty of time to ponder what this 14th season of Nats baseball means, along with all the pitfalls to come, the start of Spring Training is a moment for reflection. Washington fans are a pessimistic bunch. Sometimes, you expect the worse.

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This week, just soak it all in.

Between the videos of balls popping in catcher mitts to Dave Martinez saying the same five lines in every interview, February is about hope. We missed our daily friend since October and now it is back to keep us company the next 36 weeks.

The team Washington will bring home remains the best in the National League East. Max Scherzer soon will stalk the mounds of West Palm Beach and Jupiter with the same intensity he does at Nationals Park.

Yes, Anthony Rendon had his hair cut. Somewhere, Wilmer Difo goes through his oldies playlist on Spotify to find his walk-up music. The grounds crew preps the infield for grounders and the outfield for wind sprints. That stiff breeze on display at the new park will cool those families sitting on the outfield berm during games.

Spring has arrived again.

Soon, we will get involved in launch angles, free agent contracts and wonder how the lineup will look come Opening Day. There will be plenty of nights to grit teeth over missed opportunities and bullpen strategy. October will get here faster than anyone wants.

For now, relax and take a deep breath.

Green grass, red brick dust and players wearing uniform numbers above 70 have arrived. Although the Grapefruit League has turned into the same big business as the regular season, there is something about the intimacy of big-league players on a small-town field signing autographs and stretching on the back-lots of Florida.

Over the next six weeks, the players belong to the fans. A timeless tradition dating back before airplanes and radio. We will make new friends, watch the Nats of tomorrow and dream of summer.

Remember, the numbers mean nothing. The goal is to get everything in order before the long marathon starts in Cincinnati on March 29.

Next: The Harper brothers could be teammates

Do not forget to do something nice for your sweetheart. Buy tickets for this summer.

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