“Play ball!”

It’s finally time to hear those wonderful words as Opening Day arrives in Major League Baseball for the 2022 regular season.

Nine games were originally scheduled to kick off the campaign. However, bad weather has already caused the postponement of two as of this writing (noon EDT on Wednesday) and is threatening at least one more. The Boston Red Sox visit to Yankee Stadium and Seattle’s visit to Minnesota are both now pushed back to Friday. Also, the Mets game in Washington faces weather jeopardy.

The following are still on the docket, for now:

Milwaukee – Chicago at Wrigley Field

Cleveland – Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium

Pittsburgh – Saint Louis at Busch Stadium

Cincinnati – Atlanta at Truist Park

Houston – Los Angeles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim

San Diego – Arizona at Chase Field

One of the highlights for baseball fans in these contests will be the anticipated big-league debuts for two of the game’s most exciting prospects. Both just 21-years-old, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr of the Royals and center fielder Julio Rodriguez of the Mariners should provide exciting impact for years to come.

Also at Kansas City, the Cleveland franchise will take the field under the “Guardians” nickname for the first time. For those not in-the-know, this new nickname (replacing “Indians”) comes from an iconic set of art deco sculptures which are carved into the city’s Lorain-Carnegie Bridge signifying the spirit of transportation.

At Wrigley, 27-year-old right-hander Corbin Burnes takes the mound for the Brewers against the host Cubs. Burnes is coming off his first National League Cy Young Award campaign and is a favorite to repeat for those honors.

The home fans at Saint Louis will be watching the final Opening Day start in the career of veteran righty Adam Wainwright. The 40-year-old veteran entering his 17th big league season has announced that this year will mark his swan song. He is going to make for an interesting Hall of Fame vote on the back end of the 2020’s.

Moving to the later day schedule, reigning American League Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani is schedule to take the mound in Anaheim as the Angels host the American League West Division favorites, the Houston Astros. Ohtani should be joined in the lineup by both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Both stars return after suffering through injury plagued seasons a year ago.

The final starting time offers an intriguing pair of veteran pitchers taking the mound in Phoenix. Righty Yu Darvish gets things started for the visiting Padres. His club faces lefty Madison Bumgarner of the Dbacks.

There are a few important rules changes of which MLB fans should be aware.

For the first time, umpires will announce the result of replay reviews to fans in the ballpark. The three possible outcomes are ‘Confirmed’, ‘Overturned’, or ‘Inconclusive’ and the umps will expand on those ruling announcements in some cases.

Active roster limits are expanded from the usual 26 players out to 28 through the month of April. This is largely to protect arms as pitchers build up workloads due to the delayed spring training schedule following agreement on baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Designated Hitter is now ‘universal’, meaning that it will be utilized in both the NL and AL. Baseball purists may not like it. But the fact remains that were it not for an ill-timed fishing trip by Philadelphia Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter in 1981 we would already have seen the DH in both leagues for the last four decades.

Perhaps one of the most despised rules enacted during the COVID pandemic is returning. Ostensibly to reduce the likelihood of extended extra-innings games, the ‘ghost runner’ returns for another season. Beginning in the 10th, each team will again start their half of any inning with a runner on second base. That runner will be the player who made the final out in the prior inning.

Finally, we have the ‘Ohtani Rule’ which allows for starting pitchers to remain in the batting order even if removed from that position. So, for example (and perhaps the only player affected at this point) Ohtani can start on the mound today for the Halos. He would be listed officially as both the starting pitcher and the DH. If manager Joe Maddon decides to pull him for a reliever during the game, Ohtani can remain in the batting order as DH.

For those fans whose teams do not open today you shouldn’t have long to wait. The following matchups will mark Opening Day for the rest of MLB on Friday, April 8:

Boston – New York at Yankee Stadium

Chicago – Detroit at Comerica Park

Baltimore – Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field

Oakland – Philadelphia at Citizens Bank Park

Los Angeles – Colorado at Coors Field

Seattle – Minnesota at Target Field

Miami – San Francisco at Oracle Park

Texas – Toronto at Rogers Centre

The 2022 MLB regular season schedule will end on Wednesday, October 5. For the next six months the game will bring us thrills and chills as the reliable daily of hum of baseball returns to our lives. What happens over these next 182 days will determine which 12 teams will continue playing on into the new expanded postseason.

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