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STEVE DeSHAZO: Hot fun in summertime? Not on the diamond, nor gridiron

Those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer are supposed to be spent relaxing by the pool or on the beach. Here’s hoping you’re already tanned and rested, because the break is almost over.

A month of World Cup soccer and the LeBron James homecoming saga shortened an already short break between school years for sports fans. Now, it’s practically time for more.

Don’t believe me? Yes, it’s technically still mid-July, but consider:

Several NFL teams already have begun their training camps, and the rest open this week. That includes the Washington, er, Redskins, whose first practice will be held Thursday morning in Richmond. The Hall of Fame game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills is a mere 15 days away.

We’ll discuss Washington’s 2014 outlook next week. But there’s no time for that now, because… 

College football isn’t far away, either. Look for reports from myself and Nathan Warters starting Monday from the Atlantic Coast Conference Kickoff, where players and coaches weigh in on the upcoming season. There’s no shortage of compelling story lines.

It’s close to a make-or-break year for Virginia coach Mike London, whose recruiting acumen has surpassed his success on the field. Coming off a 2–10 year, he’ll need to show progress to satisfy a disgruntled fan base who have seen the Cavaliers excel in virtually every other sport.

After two subpar (by his standards) seasons at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer hopes to return to the Hokies to the ACC title game. But he’ll have to do it with his most unsettled quarterback situation since before Michael Vick arrived 15 years ago.

And with Maryland now officially in the Big Ten, the league will have a new, stronger look as Louisville arrives with its polarizing coach, Bobby Petrino.

And don’t forget, the 2014 season will be the first one with an actual four-team NCAA Division I–A championship playoff. Florida State is favored in both the ACC and the nation, but it’s a long road to get there.

Speaking of playoffs, baseball’s season resumed Friday after the All-Star break, with both the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles leading or tied for first in their respective divisions.

Look for the Orioles to be potential buyers before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, hoping to improve a mostly mediocre starting pitching staff. Tampa Bay’s David Price is the top starter available, but the Rays may not want to trade him within their division—unless the O’s are willing to part with top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. That’s unlikely, but even with promising young Kevin Gausman, Baltimore needs an upgrade.

The Nationals may not be quite as active, but if the Phillies will accept less than a king’s ransom for second baseman Chase Utley, he could solidify Washington’s weakest position. The Nationals have a strong enough farm system to make a solid offer, but general manager Mike Rizzo must decide whether to mortgage the future for a title shot now.

Rizzo met one deadline Friday by signing first-round draft pick Erick Fedde, a hard-throwing pitcher from UNLV. Fedde joins a solid minor league system that gives Washington assets for a potential trade.

And believe it or not, we’re just 12 days away from the start of high school fall sports practices. So if you haven’t yet visited the beach or the museum, better get there soon.

Before you know it, it could be too late.

 

Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443

sdeshazo@freelancestar.com

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