Baseball’s on the way

Mid-winter thoughts:

¯ Many fans in the Tri-State Area were certain the football season came to an end on Jan. 22 when the Steelers suffered a 36-17 loss to New England in the AFC title game.

It, in fact, did not end until late in the evening last Sunday when those same Patriots came from way behind to defeat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime to win Super Bowl LI.

That the win was directed by the much-vilified Bill Belichick and orchestrated by Tom Brady, who completed 43 of his Super Bowl-record 62 passes for 466 yards (another Super Bowl record) and two touchdowns to earn his record fourth Super Bowl MVP award and his fifth championship ring, did nothing to ease the pain of Steelers fans.

¯ With that said, it’s not too early to begin looking at the 2017 season. While we don’t know the dates or times, we do know that the Steelers home schedule will include the annual contests against division rivals Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Also coming to Heinz Field next season will be Green Bay, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Tennessee and the Patriots. In addition to games in Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland, the Steelers will visit Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis and Kansas City.

¯ Oh yes, the Browns. They have home and away games against the Steelers, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Also coming to FirstEnergy Field will be Jacksonville, Tennessee, Green Bay and the Jets. The Browns will lose a home game when they play Minnesota in London. Cleveland will visit Houston, Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit and the Chargers.

¯ The curtain has finally closed on the National Football League for the season, and that means area fans can finally turn their attention to baseball. Spring training gets under way this week. Cleveland’s pitchers and catchers actually report today, and the Pirates’ pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Tuesday.

And with that, the countdown will be on for opening day.

While the Pirates will open on the road this year — April 3 in Boston — the home opener at PNC Park is scheduled to be played at 1:05 p.m. on April 7 when Atlanta comes to town.

Opening day is one of those special dates on every team’s schedule. It means baseball is back after an absence of more than five months. It’s a day when the disappointments of the past season can be forgotten and hopes of a playoff run are revitalized.

As we have for the past several years, the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times are making it easy for fans in our area to be a part of the excitement of opening day by sponsoring a bus trip to Pittsburgh. The cost is $120 per person, which includes transportation to and from the game, a lower level box seat ticket for the game, a free magnetic schedule and a snack bag provided by AVI.

Our annual bus trip has become as much a tradition for many area fans as opening day itself. We’re only taking one bus to opening day this year, and that means seats are limited. If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, you can call our office at (740) 283-4711 to reserve your seat.

¯ We’re also sponsoring a single bus to the 7:05 p.m. April 22 game against the Yankees. The cost, again, is $120 per person, which includes bus transportation, a lower level box seat ticket with $10 loaded value, a free T-shirt and a snack bag from AVI.

The trips to opening day and special games — as well as our annual Steubenville-Weirton Community Night (watch for details) — help to bring members of our community together to spend some time with friends and family, make new friends and just enjoy a couple of hours watching baseball in the best facility in the world you can watch baseball.

They’re activities that make our area special, and events we are proud to be a part of.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)