Agostini: Baseball’s annual rebirth – Willie Mays back at spring training

Reading time, two minutes:

▪ Willie Mays, 84, returns to spring training after a one-year absence. All is back to normal.

▪ It’s said that Mays’ upbeat dugout chirping is baseball’s second-best sound in February. Next to the crack of the bat, of course.

▪ Passionate baseball men who will be missed: The San Francisco Giants’ original third baseman Jim Davenport (82) and the Oakland Athletics’ Tony Phillips (56), an invaluable ingredient in their 1989 title.

▪ It will date me, and I don’t care: My first autograph was Jim Davenport’s. 1962 Crosby Clambake.

▪ I told him about it three decades later when he worked for the San Jose Giants. He spat, sort of snarled, then grinned.

▪ Classic quote by Davenport, whose hand was fractured by one of Don Drysdale’s pitches: “You have to hit him before he hits you.”

▪ One of the best friends the Modesto Athletics/Nuts ever had: The late Darlene Westley. It won’t be the same around Thurman Field this season.

▪ The Sac-Joaquin Section basketball brackets have been released. Remind me after the first round is completed.

▪ A national poll listed the Giants’ broadcast team as the best in MLB. No surprise.

▪ A leftover from Super Bowl 50: Wade Phillips, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator whose team cuffed Tom Brady and Cam Newton in back-to-back games, gets his first ring in 38 years in the NFL. His father, Bum, would tip his big hat.

▪ Levi’s Stadium appeared to be better suited for the Super Bowl than for the 49ers. Methinks the Big One will return to Santa Clara – with or without the Niners – before 2025.

▪ Peyton Manning’s playing days must be over. He’s shilling products at a record pace.

▪ Texas A&M, stung by all that Johnny Manziel fallout, found its counterbalance with Super Bowl MVP Von Miller.

▪ Terrell Owens must wait another year for his Hall of Fame call, the one Eddie DeBartolo Jr. just received.

▪ The Rams released defensive end Chris Long, Howie Long’s son. Wonder if the Raiders like that bloodline.

▪ Must-watch: Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams’ emotional and heart-tugging eulogy to his wife.

▪ The NFL scouting combine is next week. I’m worried. My three-cone drill is rusty.

▪ A consensus beginning to form: Cal’s Jared Goff is the most NFL-ready quarterback.

▪ Duke’s Grayson Allen hits a buzzer beater while basketball fans coast to coast thought he walked. Just another night at Cameron.

▪ The improving Cal Bears appear to be NCAA bound, but their free-throw shooting won’t keep them around long.

▪ Just because: Cherokee Parks.

▪ About McHenry Golf Center, closed since Jan. 10: It will reopen. Soon.

▪ The Haiti women’s national soccer team and its local connection: Samantha Brand (Turlock Christian, USF).

▪ Given that Golden State has built the most magical skill-athleticism-chemistry mojo seen in recent years in the NBA, a question to the Warriors: Why even think about Kevin Durant after this season?

▪ If I’m the Warriors’ Luke Walton, I hold the keys to the NBA kingdom in 2016-17.

▪ And on the other corner of the world: The Kings fire George Karl’s assistant Vance Walberg because, you know, it was just time to shake things up.

▪ When are things not shaken up in Kings World?

▪ The Kings are supposed to be encouraging people to flock to Golden 1 Center next season. Instead, more dysfunction.

▪ While the Giants like their new center fielder Denard Span, another restart: Barry Bonds, beginning work as the Marlins’ hitting coach.

▪ Mays called Span “Bernard.” Hey, it’s even spring training for the Say Hey Kid.