The passion remains for a pair of professional baseball players from Haverhill.
And this year, friends and family members will be able to see that passion for themselves.
Both Billy Mottram and Tim Stronach have been playing the national pastime far from New England for several years but, for different reasons, they'll both be much closer to home, playing for the Pittsfield Colonials of the Can-Am League.
Mottram, 26, the former Haverhill High infield standout, was part of a five-player trade last month with the Independent League's Florence (Ky.) Freedom, with whom he's played the last three years, while the 25-year-old Stronach, who was released in November by the Mets organization, signed with the Colonials three weeks ago.
"I want to get my foot back in the door and this seemed like the best opportunity," said Stronach, a former fire-balling righthander for Whittier Tech. "My agent was in contact with a couple of teams and this worked out."
Stronach had a strong first season after being drafted in the 36th round by the Mets, but his shoulder began to bother him, and limited his effectiveness, his second season.
"I was saying for more than a year that my shoulder was hurting, and I was in pain," said Stronach. "I'd take time off and rehab, and it would feel better for awhile, and then the same pain would come back when I started pitching again.
"I finally had an MRI and they could see the damage. I had to have labrum surgery in my throwing shoulder in the fall of 2009."
Stronach needed to take off nearly a year to recover from surgery, but he was starting to throw at the end of last year when the Mets called him in and informed him of his release.
"I kind of expected it, but it was still a surprise when it happened as far as the timing," said Stronach. "But I didn't get too discouraged and I've been hitting the gym, working out and getting my strength back.
"I feel good now and confident, even stronger than I was before. I think I can do well and have a shot at getting signed by an affiliated team and see what happens. I felt I was doing pretty good before my shoulder problem. I still want to see how far I can go (in baseball)."
Mottram, on the other hand, realizes that any major league dreams are probably farfetched. But he's enjoyed himself while being a productive pro for several years and he doesn't see any reason not to continue.
Originally signed by the Chicago Cubs, he was released following a 2007 season playing with both the Class A Boise Hawks and the Daytona Cubs. But, since latching on with Florence in 2008, he's had considerable success.
His first year with the Freedom, he hit .300 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs, fine numbers for a second baseman.
In 2009, he was a league all-star while hitting .281 with a career-high 23 home runs, 79 RBIs, 73 runs and 30 steals.
Last year, despite being switched to center field and battling injuries all season, Mottram hit a decent .260 with eight home runs.
"I cracked a bone in my hand in spring training and had to fight through that all year," said Mottram. "I couldn't turn on inside pitches and it affected my swing. I had my hand and wrist taped all year — I probably should have taken time off.
"And then the last month I suffered a stress fracture in my foot, which can be pretty tough when you're playing the outfield. But I felt I had to keep playing."
As far as getting traded, Mottram said it was and wasn't a surprise.
"Guys like me get bounced around, so it's not that unusual, but I wasn't expecting to come out here," said Mottram, who worked and worked out at Play Ball in Salem during the offseason. "I thought I might be going to the Northern League.
"But this should be a good opportunity for me. I haven't been able to be close to home since I started playing and it'll be nice to have people I know see me play. I'm looking forward to it."
Mottram, who has known Stronach for several years, is not sure how much longer he'll keep playing, but he's certainly not ready to stop being a professional ball player yet.
"I'm not getting rich, but I'm not starving and it's something I still love to do," he said. "Right now, I'm just taking it year by year."
The Billy Mottram file
* Drafted in 2007 in the 36th round by Chicago Cubs
2007Boise (Idaho) HawksShort Season Single A.171 average
2007Daytona (Fla.) CubsSingle A.138 average
2008Florence (Ky.) FreedomIndependent.300, 10 homers, 53 RBIs
2009Florence (Ky.) FreedomIndependent.381, 23 homers, 79 RBIs, 30 steals
2010Florence (Ky.) FreedomIndependent.260, 8 homers
The Tim Stronach file
* Drafted in 2006 in the 22nd round by N.Y. Mets
2006Kingsport (Tenn.) MetsRookie League 4-2, 3.76 ERA
2007 Brooklyn (N.Y.) CyclonesShort season Single A4-2, 3.41 ERA
2007Savannah (Ga.) Sand GnatsSingle A 2-7, 5.41 ERA
2008Brooklyn (N.Y.) CyclonesShort season Single A2-5, 4.05 ERA
2008St. Lucie (Fla.) MetsSingle A Advanced3-2, 5.98 ERA
2009St. Lucie (Fla.) MetsSingle A Advanced3-4, 4.06 ERA