If you are like me, a person whose love affair with baseball has gone a little stale since the hometown team has declined, the words “pitchers and catchers report” can set off fleeting moments of hope. This year, I am keeping the faith that the MacPhail Plan begins to bear more fruit and that fans like me can see future pennants and championships in the distance (not up close; they aren’t quite ready for that yet). That said, it’s spring training! Time to breathe deep and drink the orange and black kool-aid! Ok, if you’re not quite at that state yet, here’s a guide to spring training, O’s style.

This year the Orioles will set up camp in Sarasota, which is a marked improvement over the Fort Lauderdale site. While Ed Smith Stadium isn’t brand new, it will be new to the Orioles. The former home of the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds will now serve as the spring home base for the Orioles, and with renovations and improvements due to be made and completed by next spring training, the Orioles will finally look the part of a first-class organization down in Florida. You can learn all about the new home by visiting this page on the Orioles’ website (in addition to purchasing some tickets for spring training games and travel packages to get you there).

Tomorrow marks the first day of the 2010 Baltimore Oriole season, as the likes of Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman, new acquisition Kevin Millwood and Matt Wieters will be heading down to Sarasota to build (or in some cases improve) on their 2009 seasons. The rest of the squad (assuming there are no issues with things like visa problems and other minor quibbles) is scheduled to be present by February 23rd. The pitchers and catchers are scheduled to have their first workout on Thursday; the first workout for the full squad will be on the 23rd. If you are heading down, you can watch the practices free of charge, at least until the spring games begin. Once the games begin you can only watch practice if you have a ticket. The Orioles will begin their spring schedule with a home game against the Tampa Bay Rays. You can find the complete spring schedule here. The O’s won’t play the Nationals this year in spring training either at Camden Yards or Nationals Park, but will see old familiar foes Boston and the New York Yankees several times.

So, as I sit with my tall glass of Oriole kool-aid, I am looking forward to improvements by the Orioles. Is it too much to ask for a possible .500 season? I’m old enough to remember Cal Ripken squeezing the last out of the 1983 World Series; will I live long enough to see the Orioles return to respectability? Another chapter in the long-running saga begins in Sarasota in a few  hours. Go O’s!