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17 dates we can't wait for in 2017

There’s plenty to be excited for as Major League Baseball and the rest of the world flips the calendar to 2017.

With a new year, a clean slate, and 91 days until Opening Day, here are 17 dates on the MLB calendar that we can’t wait for in 2017:

January 18 – Hall of Fame announcement

The 2017 Hall of Fame class will be announced later this month with several intriguing names potentially earning their place in Cooperstown. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez appear to be locks, while Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Edgar Martinez are all on the bubble.

February 24: Spring training begins

While several clubs kick start their spring training schedule the day before with exhibition games against college teams, the (real) exhibition games begin on the 24th with the Mets versus Red Sox, Orioles versus Tigers, Phillies versus Yankees, and Rays versus Twins playing in the Grapefruit League, and the Reds and Giants getting things started in the Cactus League.

March 6: World Baseball Classic opens

There will be competitive games in March this year as the 2017 World Baseball Classic opens with Israel and South Korea at the Gocheok Sky Dome. Pool B opens with Cuba versus Japan the following day, while Pool C and Pool D get underway March 9. The tournament runs from March 6-22.

March 11: USA vs. Dominican Republic

In what will likely be the marquee game of the group stage at the WBC, the United States and Dominican Republic square off in Pool C. The Dominicans are the defending champs and feature Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte, Adrian Beltre, and Manny Machado. The Americans, who have never finished higher than fourth, counter with Max Scherzer, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Nolan Arenado, and Buster Posey.

April 2: Opening Day

The 2017 season officially gets underway on Sunday with a trio of games. The Yankees and Rays get things started at 1:10 p.m. ET, followed by the Giants versus Diamondbacks at 4:10 p.m. ET, and Cubs versus Cardinals at 8:30 p.m. ET.

April 3: Bartolo returns to Queens

The rest of the major-league teams get their seasons started on the Monday, highlighted by Bartolo Colon’s return to Queens. The 43-year-old became a fan favorite the last three years with the Mets before signing with Atlanta in November.

April 10: Cubs return to Wrigley as champions

Five months after winning their first World Series title in 108 years, the Cubs will return to play a game at Wrigley Field. Chicago won its World Series in Cleveland, and begin its defense with six straight road games before finally returning to the Windy City.

April 14: Braves open SunTrust Park

The Braves unveil their new stadium in Cobb County when they welcome the San Diego Padres to town for a four-game set. The 41,500-seat, $ 622-million stadium will be the center of a new entertainment district constructed outside of Atlanta.

April 25: Red Sox, Yankees renew rivalry

The Red Sox and Yankees renew hostilities in what remains one of the best rivalries in professional sports. This time, however, it will be without a number of key faces as David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira are all no longer in the majors. Instead, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge will be part of the new era of the rivalry.

May 5: Chapman returns to Wrigley

Aroldis Chapman may have only spent three months in Chicago, but his place in Cubs’ history will remain forever. The hard-throwing closer makes his return to Wrigley Field as a member of the New York Yankees, and the Cuban Missile will likely receive a standing ovation from those at the Friendly Confines.

May 8: EE brings the parrot back up north

In what’s anticipated to be a highly emotional return, Edwin Encarnacion will be back at Rogers Centre when the Indians visit Toronto for the first time since eliminating the Blue Jays from the ALCS and signing Encarnacion to a three-year, $ 60-million deal. Encarnacion ranks third in Blue Jays franchise history in home runs, fourth in OPS, sixth in RBIs, eighth in runs, 10th in doubles, 11th in hits, and 12th in games played.

May 14: Yankees retire No. 2

Three years after playing his final game in pinstripes, Yankees great Derek Jeter will return to the Bronx to have his No. 2 immortalized. Jeter, who will also receive a plaque in Monument Park, will become the 22nd player to have his number retired by the franchise. The 42-year-old future Hall of Famer spent his entire 20-year career with the Yankees, winning five World Series titles, while also earning 14 All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and was the 2000 World Series MVP.

July 10 – Home Run Derby at Marlins Park

For all of those who hate the ghastly sculpture constructed behind the center-field wall at Marlins Park, the 2017 Home Run Derby might be for you. The league’s biggest sluggers will have the opportunity to pepper the colorful sculpture with baseballs and maybe even put it out of operation. If anything, it will be fun to watch Giancarlo Stanton mash the ball at his own ballpark – a place where he hit a 484-foot blast back in 2014.

July 18 – Harper, Trout battle in LA

Two of the biggest stars in the majors will face off against one another when the Nationals travel to Los Angeles for a two-game set. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have only played against one another in a regular-season game three times in their careers, and not since 2014. Harper went 1-for-11 during that series, while Trout went 5-for-14.

July 30 – Hall of Fame induction

The Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown is always one of the highlights of the summer. Mike Piazza spoke about his time with the Mets during the attacks on 9/11 in 2016, while Ken Griffey Jr. became emotional talking about his dad before rocking his signature backwards cap to conclude his speech. There’s a lot of potential for more memorable podium moments this time around with former commissioner Bud Selig being enshrined, and the potential of having Bonds and Clemens both moving into Cooperstown.

TBD – Cubs go to White House

While a date has yet to be determined, the World Series champion Cubs could make their visit to the White House in late June when they come to town for a four-game set against the Nationals. The Cubs will likely be the first team to visit under new President Donald Trump, and it will be interesting to see if any players opt out of the trip.

TBD – Red Sox retire Ortiz’s number

The Red Sox have yet to set a date, but they have already made it known that they will retire David Ortiz’s No. 34 at some point during the 2017 season. The three-time World Series champion and 10-time All-Star retired in October after putting together one of the best final seasons in professional sports history. He will be the 10th player to have his number retired by the organization.

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