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Spring Training Begins in earnest as Hampton takes the mound (Unofficial Game Thread)

We were all excited for pitchers and catchers to report February 13th. When positional players started to roll in, we could all practically feel the good vibrations coming our way from Kissimmee. Still though, our appetite for baseball wasn't satiated.

It's one thing for Lance to joke around with a rookie, or for El Caballo to report late to camp, much to the collective chagrin and bemusement of his teammates. It's quite another for the popping of mits, and the cracking of bats to actual mean something more substantial than merely preparation. Spring Training is a lot like Christmas...if Christmas was over a month long and instead of opening presents immediately, you were forced to go to a factory to watch how wrapping paper was made. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, but not one that I find particularly easy to embody, especially when it comes to the Astros.

This was a sight for my sore eyes, as I'm sure it was for many of you all. Not only would we be able to discuss and dissect real competition, but the man who toes the rubber first for our hometown team is Mike Hampton. I can't think of another Astro who would've been a more appropriate starting pitcher for the team's first game of the spring. Over two seasons of injury, frustration and failed promise left Hampton precious few opportunities to show that he could still compete on the high level that major league baseball demands.

After making thirteen starts last year for the Atlanta Braves, a pitching starved Ed Wade offered him the chance to start anew, and to come back to the city where "The Bulldog" began his career. His signing was a result of a mutual need. For Hampton, the need to prove that he was not a shell of his former self, but is a formidable opponent for any hitter. For the Astros, after failed drafts, failed signings and tough economic times (read: an owner reluctant to expand payroll dramatically) necessitated a frugal venture into the free agent market. It was a match made in baseball heaven.

No matter how you view this season's club it is near impossible to not enter this time of renewal and growth with some degree of optimism. The game of baseball symbolizes life and the lessons we garner from it better than any other, in my opinion. From the hits we make, to the games we win, but also to the errors that we dwell on, our lives often revolve around the same frustrations, joys and close defeats that make up a baseball season. For the same reasons we believe in ourselves and our own ability to overcome and succeed, the Astros should be viewed today in the same light. There are many months ahead to disregard or lose interest with this club, but today I will begin the spring with optimism.