Justin Masterson will throw the first pitch of the 2012 season.
Because the current college season starts in February, many northern schools are forced to travel south for the first portion of their schedule. One proposal would have the Big Ten teams play a fall schedule that would count as part of their season, or play a completely different schedule in the summer. How this would affect their standing in the NCAA is unknown, but what is clear is that the Big Ten is looking for ways to break from the unfairness of the current system.
The choice was between Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez. The honor is really for just the one day, as once the season gets going, there's nothing special as to when you pitch. Just a year ago, it was an open question whether Masterson would be an effective starter, but he answered those questions definitively through his fantastic 2011 season.
This has been hinted at since the players and owners agreed on a new CBA, but now it's official: there will be 10 teams in the playoffs this season. The key feature of the new system is that the two Wild Cards in each league will face off against each other in a one-game series to determine who goes to the Division Series. This places a premium on winning the division, and prevents clubs who have clinched a playoff spot but not a division from coasting at the end of the season. I think by expanding the playoffs this paradoxically makes the regular season more important.
Today's first spring training game will be broadcast by WTAM. First pitch should be a little after 3:00 PM Eastern.