BOSTON — This week was an important one for America's favorite pastime. On Wednesday, spring training began. The teams have a month to practice before they're told to 'play ball!' on March 31. Here are some facts to prepare you for opening day.
Q: What teams have been added to Major League Baseball?
A: The Arizona Diamondbacks join the National League West division. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays will compete in the American League East division.
Q: How did these newly formed teams pick players?
A: The 1997 Major League Baseball expansion draft took place on Nov. 18, 1997, in Phoenix. There, the Diamondbacks and Devil Rays chose from 70 players in a draft pool made up of players from the existing 28 teams.
Q: What are the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues?
A: The Grapefruit League is the unofficial name for the major-league teams that play preseason exhibition games in the citrus-growing state of Florida. Arizona is the location for the Cactus League.
Q How many players are on the roster during spring training?
A: Forty players are "protected" from trades, deals, and signings, but coaches are allowed an unlimited amount of players to try out rookies and minor-leaguers. During the regular season, the roster is reduced to 25.
Q: Which teams were in the World Series last year? Who won?
A: The Florida Marlins, a recent expansion team, beat the Cleveland Indians after an exhilarating 11th-inning Game 7 victory.
And now for a question from a Sports 101 reader:
Q: How is it decided that professionals can compete in the Olympics? Is it decided by each sport's federation? And are Olympic figure skaters amateurs?
A: Each sport has its own federation that determines Olympic eligibility.
But even if the federation approves professionals to compete, there are still restrictions. For instance, the International Skating Union opened its doors to professionals in 1994, but the ISU requires Olympic competitors to abide by rules that limit skaters to ISU-sanctioned events. They can earn prize money at these events, but they can't go out and accept high-paying show and exhibition offers. By allowing professionals to compete, it adds excitement, and fans get to see the best against the best. But some argue that it taints the Olympics.
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