Major League Baseball released the schedule for the 2014 regular season on Tuesday through its official website, with traditional Opening Day set for March 31.
There is still plenty of baseball to be played this year, but this is the first opportunity for fanbases of clubs who are certain not to make the postseason to look ahead to what will hopefully be a brighter future on the horizon.
As announced in June, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will kick off the season in Australia on March 22. From the Associated Press, via the New York Daily News:
Major League Baseball will open the 2014 regular season in Australia, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks playing a two-game series at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Bud Selig emphasized the importance of the globalization of baseball:
The globalization of our game continues to be paramount to Major League Baseball, and Australia is an essential part of our long-term efforts to grow the sport. We look forward to writing an exciting new chapter in international baseball history at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground next March.
The first action of 2014 is highlighted by a slew of divisional matchups, with the significance of some to be determined by the impending postseason.
Among the teams squaring off to begin 2014 are the Boston Red Sox and hosting Baltimore Orioles from the American League East, along with the Chicago Cubs visiting the National League Central rival Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pittsburgh has clinched its first non-losing season in two decades and is likely headed for the 2013 playoffs, and it will be interesting to see how the Cubs bounce back after another down year.
Also on tap is an opening series featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and prodigious outfielder Yasiel Puig traveling to clash with the NL West rival San Diego Padres.
Starting times have been set in just one opening series, where the likely NL East division champion Atlanta Braves take on the Milwaukee Brewers in a three-game series at Miller Park.
That will be an interesting set of games to monitor because it will mark the return of Brewers superstar Ryan Braun. The 29-year-old left fielder was suspended back in July for the remainder of the 2013 season, and has admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
The March 31 opener between Atlanta and Milwaukee is set to start at 2:10 p.m. ET.