I hate this time of year, and I’m not talking about the weather. It’s been nearly three months since the World Series and another two months before the 2008 baseball season starts. I’ve been jonesin’ for baseball big time, so what do I do? Go nuts the last few weeks, buying tickets to six spring training games as teams in the Cactus League open up ticket sales to the public.

About ten years ago, when I flew into Arizona for ballgames in March, I loved lying in the grass beyond the outfield fences and stretching out. But now I’ve become a snob and like to get as close to home plate as possible. And that’s why I love the Milwaukee Brewers. Their fans seemingly never go to their games, so you can always get seats right behind home plate. (Score!)

Two years ago, during the World Baseball Classic, when Team Japan played a practice night game against the Brewers, my brother and I just strolled into the ballpark, bought tickets, and were three rows behind home plate. We were so close to Ichiro on the on-deck circle that we could hear the velcro rip as he put on and adjusted his elbow pad.

Off the field, this offseason provided us another round of mindnumbing steroids news — Barry heading to court, the Mitchell Report, the Congressional hearing and the Clemens saga. We get it. Steroids is bad. Yes, the last 20 years of baseball statistics are a joke. But the sport has tried to clean up its act and instituted stringent testing three years ago, so let’s move on people.

Major League Baseball’s Web site has a countdown to Feb. 14, the day pitchers and catchers report to spring training. As I write this, it’s 18 days, 21 hours, 28 minutes and 2 seconds.

Play ball, already, dammit.