CRICKET AND ZZZZ's
The Cricket World Cup begins Saturday. From The Times of London: "Only a particular form of genius can take an already bloated format, keep it exactly the same length and give it one inspired tweak. Namely, make absolutely sure you know the identity of the eight teams for the knockout stages before the first ball is bowled, then take a month to get there. It's all to do with money, of course, although one day the television companies and sponsors might twig that selling your product to that bloke on the sofa is not so easy if he happens to have fallen into an irreversible coma."
The Daytona International Speedway is calling for a moment of silence during the third lap of the Daytona 500 Sunday as a tribute to Dale Earnhardt. The stock car legend was killed in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Fans will also be asked to stand and raise three fingers during the lap, in recognition of his car number. That number is also to be painted onto the infield grass.
Spring training is absent from Tucson, Ariz., for the first time since 1945, as 15 major-league teams are now located within 60 kilometres in the Phoenix area. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies will inhabit the most recently built complex, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community lands. Kirk Gibson begins his first full season as Arizona manager, and Prince Fielder probably his last season in the Milwaukee Brewers lineup. The Los Angeles Times reports that the World Series champion San Francisco Giants might be the most popular team this spring - a fan festival was so crowded, the Giants had to shut the ballpark gates.
In Lake Buena Vista, Fla., 39-year-old Chipper Jones tried to come back from a knee surgery for the Atlanta Braves, as Fredi Gonzalez takes over from Bobby Cox as manager. In Fort Myers, Fla., it's uncertain when or if Justin Morneau, who's halfway through a six-year, $80-million (U.S.) contract, will return from concussion for the Minnesota Twins. In Bradenton, Fla., the Pittsburgh Pirates desperately seek pitching. Kevin Correia, 10-10 for the San Diego Padres last season, is the only 10-game winner in camp. And The New York Times reports that the New York Yankees camp has a 2006 feel to it, with Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia looking to revive once-great careers. Think the Toronto Blue Jays are the only team thinking small-ball? In Fort Myers, Boston Red Sox free-agent signee Carl Crawford and incumbent Jacoby Ellsbury have won the past six stolen-base crowns.
HABS AT FLAMES
A blessed chinook hit Calgary over the weekend, and on Monday the ice is scheduled to be laid down at McMahon Stadium for the Heritage Classic next weekend. Putting a rink on a football field comes with challenges. "This field is a unique field because it's what we call a turtleback. The crown of the field is pretty extreme on this and if you take a look there's a big sandbox out there," Dan Craig, NHL facilities operations manager, told The Canadian Press. The area had to be levelled before the ice could be put in.