Nothing officially marks the beginning of spring quite like the start of a new baseball season. Baseball in Ohio is something that draws a great deal of interest and passion all over the state and across all age ranges, from tee-ball to high school to the major leagues.

I believe Ohio is blessed to have two of the greatest baseball cities in the country in Cincinnati and Cleveland. But make no mistake, my allegiance proudly belongs to the Reds. Hosting the All-Star Game last year provided a tremendous opportunity for the city of Cincinnati to showcase not only its strong baseball roots, but also the city as a whole.

But Ohio’s contribution to the sport of baseball extends far beyond just the day-to-day ballgames. Professional baseball began in Cincinnati, dating all the way back to the 1869 Red Stockings. Little did they know at the time the kind of spectacle their sport would become.

Additionally, it was an Ohioan who helped pave the way for Jackie Robinson to become the first African American to play in the major leagues. Branch Rickey was a native of Portsmouth who later became the President and General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The legacy he left on the sport is extensive, but most importantly he was the man who signed Robinson to a major league contract, thus breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Later that same year, a player named Larry Doby became the first African American player in the American League, playing for the Cleveland Indians.

Those breakthroughs were obviously monumental, not just for the sport of baseball, but for our country. Whether or not you are a baseball fan, you can take pride in knowing that Ohio played an instrumental role in making it happen.

Finally—and this should not be understated—the start of a new season also brings with it the promise of better weather on the horizon. I don’t know of anyone who would complain about that.

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