April will be a big month for DFW sports, beginning with MLB's opening day on April 1, when the Rangers will host the Red Sox. The Mavericks and possibly the Stars will initiate their playoff runs, and the month will conclude with the NFL draft. Even racing fans have the Samsung Mobile 500 to look forward to.
Things are much leaner between now and then, but here are five highlights during the down time.
No. 1: Rangers Spring Training - Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday, first full workout is Sunday
The Rangers take their first steps in defending their American League title this week, as they report for camp. Cactus League games begin Feb. 27 at Surprise. The Rangers were the biggest local sports story in 2010, and their 2011 run will be even more closely followed from the start.
Their roster is as settled as it has ever been, with only a few pitching jobs up for grabs. Michael Young is still unhappy, though, and, barring a last minute trade, is still headed to Surprise this week, so the media should have fun with him. Meanwhile, Neftali Feliz still receive another shot at joining the rotation, and Brandon Webb will attempt to complete his comeback.
No. 2: Trade Deadlines - NBA, Feb. 24; NHL, Feb. 28
Locally speaking, the NBA version should be much more intriguing, given Mark Cuban's willingness to shake things up and his leadership team's interest in making a run while the Lakers and Heat appear vulnerable and Dirk Nowitzki is in his prime. Between now and then Roddy Beaubois will show whether he's ready to help and possibly whether he's ready to be the primary currency for a big addition.
The Stars need help, as teams have begun to puncture holes into their defense's soft underbelly, but the January move for Jamie Langenbrunner may be all the franchise can afford. They have some worthy prospects, so only opportunity and money will stand in Joe Nieuwendyk's potential efforts to add a defenseman.
No. 3: March Madness - Big 12 Tourney, March 9-12; NCAA Tourney begins March 17
This spring could be quite exciting for Longhorns, as their team is playing possibly the best basketball in the country at the moment. If they can avoid more than, say, one loss in conference they're looking at a top seed. With a stifling defense, emerging shooters, plenty of size, and a slew of ballhandlers, Texas has the look of a team that is built for the tournament.
Kansas will hope to force a second showdown with Texas on March 12, a chance to avenge the loss that broke their long home winning streak. The Aggies are ranked as well and should be in that 4th-5th seed range, depending on their finish. Baylor sits on the bubble and looks like one of the last teams either in or out of the big dance.
No. 4: Mavericks Home Showdowns - Lakers, March 12; Spurs, March 18
The Mavs and Lakers look like they will be jockeying for the second seed from here on out, while Dallas wants to show the Spurs that they are still their match, despite the gap in their records. Their opportunity to make headway on both fronts will come in mid-March, as they host the other two West monsters.
No. 5: Stars Home Showdowns - Kings, March 13; Sharks, March 15; Ducks, March 23
Likewise, the Stars will have one last chance to make a move on their key division rivals at home a few weeks before the end of the regular season. They pay each of their Californian buddies a visit immediately thereafter, so this homestand in the middle of March will be a huge factor in their playoff chances.