"The start of baseball always brings warm thoughts," says Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Kevin Young.
The exhibition season opened yesterday with seven games in Arizona and Florida. Stars such as Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, and Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa are expected to shine. Sosa says he's "still hungry" to produce another big season. "This is a new millennium and a new year, and I can't sit down and relax because I had two great years," says Sosa, who has hit 129 homers over the last two seasons.
Q: Where will baseball's regular season open this year?
A: In Tokyo. The New York Mets and the Cubs will play two games at the Tokyo Dome March 29 and 30. It's part of an effort to globalize the game, and it marks the first time in Major League Baseball history that a regular season game will be played outside North America. It's expected to draw record crowds. Last year, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies opened the season before a sold-out crowd in Monterrey, Mexico.
Q: How many teams have new managers and who are they?
A: Seven. Baltimore (Mike Hargrove); Cleveland (Charlie Manuel); Detroit (Phil Garner); Anaheim (Mike Scioscia); Milwaukee (Davey Lopes); Colorado (Buddy Bell); and the Chicago Cubs (Don Baylor).
Q: Who are the rookies to watch for?
*Chin-Feng Chen of the Los Angeles Dodgers. A Taiwanese outfielder, Chen could be the first big hitter to join a number of successful Asian pitchers in the majors.
*Ruben Mateo. He took over in center field for the Texas Rangers last June. He's a top defensive fielder and a potential Gold Glove winner.
*St. Louis Cardinal's Rich Ankiel. Perhaps the top pitching prospect, he throws a solid fastball and curve ball.
Q: What are some other noteworthy games?
A: This spring's schedule features two games between the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox being played in the Dominican Republic. The Astros will also open their newly built Enron Field in an exhibition against the New York Yankees.
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