Itâs that time of year again, when the snow melts away and the smell of spring is in the air. It is also the time when leather gloves and wooden bats are brought out of storage. Yes, baseball season is almost in full swing when most of us are just realizing who the World Series champion was in 2006. By the way, the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Series champions last year, led by Albert Pujols and David Eckstein. For those of you who didnât know, the new baseball season is upon us. Opening day is Sunday, April 1, with the Cardinals playing the Mets at 8 p.m. eastern time on ESPN2. There have been some major off-season moves involving many teams this past year. The team that has made the most noticeable moves this year has been the Northsiders of Chicago, the Cubbies. They made a huge signing this year in getting the powerful hitter Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs signed Soriano to an eight year $136 million contract and are expecting big things from him. He batted .277 and hit 46 home runs last year for the dreadful Washington Nationals. The Cubs are planning on moving Soriano to center field, but this may not be the wisest choice. Soriano is a natural infielder, second baseman to be exact, and he is not known for his fielding ability. So this move may be a big adventure. The Cubbies also signed well-known players including Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis and Cliff Floyd. Overall the Cubs have spent over $300 million dollars this off-season. Their biggest re-signing may be the ace of the pitching staff Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs also hired a fiery, new manager, Lou Piniella. The Cubs are expecting a big improvement this season on their 96-loss season from a year ago and it looks very bright. âThe Cubs are going to have a stellar and finish ahead of the Cardinals in the division standings,â senior Jake Johnson said. The defending world champion Cardinals did not make any major off-season moves, but they did not lose any major players either. They still have their all-star slugger Albert Pujols and look like a strong contender for returning to the World Series. â I guarantee that they win it again,â senior Steven Fennelly said. âLock it up and throw away the key.â 2004 World Series Champion, the Boston Red Sox probably made the highest profile signing of the off-season. They signed the Japanese flamethrower, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had a sparkling resumÃ© playing on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. He has a new pitch that American players have not seen before called the gyro ball. It is really a mystery and nobody even really knows if there actually is a gyro ball. The Red Sox gave him a five year $52 million contract and also had to pay his Japanese team $50 million just to negotiate with Matsuzaka. So overall he is a $100 million investment, and the Red Sox hope he lives up to his billing and leads them to the World Series. One more All-Star that found a new home this year was the southpaw, Barry Zito. He joined the other infamous Barry on the San Francisco Giants. The Giants signed him to a seven year $130 million contract and hope that his big sweeping curveball can help them compete for a playoff spot along with the second all-time home run hitter Barry Bonds. Those are just a few of the major changes that will affect the landscape of major league baseball this year and the competition looks stronger then ever. âI actually believe the Detroit Tigers will win it all,â senior Tony Dempsey said. âThey have the best pitching and with the addition of Gary Sheffield they have the most feared lineup in the league.â So break out those old wooden bats and leather gloves, and hit the diamond because it is time for the baseball season to start up again.