With pitchers and catchers reporting as early as February 10, visions of fresh-cut grass, groomed infields, hot dogs and spring training action are becoming increasingly vivid in Florida and Arizona. As baseball’s preseason begins for today’s current players, let’s first acknowledge the achievements of six all-time greats and their recent induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Meet The Six New Hall of Famers

Heading into 2019, no former player had ever been unanimously selected for induction into baseball’s sacred Hall by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. History did not repeat itself this year, as former New York Yankee relief pitcher Mariano Rivera was named on all 425 ballots cast for induction and became the first player to receive 100 percent of the vote.

Practically synonymous with his “Enter Sandman” intro music at Yankee Stadium, “Mo” spent all 19 of his big league seasons with the Yankees (1995–2013). Rivera is currently MLB’s all-time saves leader with 652. With a career 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings pitched, the 13-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion is widely recognized as the greatest closer of all-time.

Rivera will have the pleasure of being part of Hall of Fame ceremonies on Sunday, July 21, with former pitching teammate, Mike Mussina. The man known as “Moose” enters the Hall with 270 career wins, seven Gold Gloves, and five All-Star game appearances in 10 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles (1991–2000) and eight years with the Yankees (2001–2008). A model of starting pitching consistency, Mussina recorded 15 or more wins in 11 of his 18 seasons.

Roy Halladay, like Rivera, was selected for induction in his first year of eligibility. A former starting pitcher for Toronto and Philadelphia, “Doc” was named to eight All-Star Games over a career that spanned 16 major league seasons (1998–2013). Halladay won two Cy Young Awards, once being recognized in the AL in 2003 as a member of the Blue Jays and again in 2010 as a Phillie. Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash in 2017 at the age of 40.

Edgar Martinez made it to Cooperstown after his tenth year of eligibility. Martinez played for the Seattle Mariners over 18 seasons (1987–2004) and remains the franchise’s all-time leader in runs, runs batted in, doubles, walks, extra-base hits and total bases. A seven-time All-Star, Martinez spent time at third base early in his career before becoming a full-time designated hitter in 1995. He won the batting title twice and the annual Designated Hitter Award was named in his honor in 2004.

Fellow designated hitter Harold Baines, a former teammate of Mussina’s in Baltimore, was given the nod for induction with relief pitcher Lee Smith on December 9 by the Today’s Game Era Committee. A six-time All-Star, Baines hit 384 career home runs over 22 seasons (1980–2001) in the big leagues as a member of the White Sox, Orioles, A’s, Rangers and Indians. Smith retired as the all-time career saves leader at 478 after 18 years in MLB (1980–1997), primarily with the Cubs, Cardinals and the defending World Series Champion Red Sox.

Let The Cactus and Grapefruit Games Begin

Fresh off their fourth championship in the last 15 years, the Boston Red Sox begin their Grapefruit League schedule at 1:05 pm ET on February 23 against their bitter American League East rivals, the New York Yankees at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Purchase tickets to see reigning regular season MVP Mookie BettsWorld Series MVP Steve Pearce and the rest of the Sox in spring training action here.

Coming off an emotional ALDS elimination to Boston, the Yankees open their home spring training slate at 1:05 pm ET on February 25 in Tampa against the Toronto Blue Jays. Purchase tickets to see Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the Bronx Bombers here.

On the NL (and West Coast) side, the defending pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers open their Cactus League season in Glendale, AZ, with the Chicago White Sox at 3:05 pm ET on February 23. The Dodgers, who are seeking their first World Series championship since 1988, have come up short on baseball’s biggest stage the past two years.

No matter who your team is, baseball is back.

By John Parnofiello