Opening Day: For Love of the Game

The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will play the first game of the 2015 Major League Baseball season tonight at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are currently in the middle of the first of four offseason phases of construction to Wrigley Field. The Cubs for the first time in their history will have a Jumbotron screen, after a legal battle with the Waveland Avenue rooftops property owners. The left field bleachers won’t be completed until May, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The right field bleachers likely won’t be finished until June. Holy moly: Wrigley Field has a Jumbotron now.

Screenshot from 2015-04-05 05:52:56

The “14” on the field is a tribute to “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, who passed away in the offseason. The bleacher seats will also be covered tonight with a tribute to the Cubs’ Hall of Famer.  “It’s a great day for a ball game; let’s play two!

Monday is Opening Day, otherwise known as the most beautiful phrase in the English language, with a full slate of games scheduled. Opening Day Schedule.

Last season my Minnesota Twins were eliminated by Memorial Day with the worst pitching rotation in the American League. Sports Illustrated projects the Twins as 28th out of 30 teams this year. 2015 MLB season previews – Sports Illustrated.

Don’t laugh. Sports illustrated projects your Arizona Diamondbacks as 29th out 30 teams this year. So there. The once mighty Philadelphia Phillies earn the dubious distinction of being No. 30.

According to Sports Illustrated — and what the hell do they know, really? — the division winners in the National League this year are predicted to be the Washington Nationals (East), St. Louis Cardinals (Central), and Los Angeles Dodgers (West).

In the American League, the division winners are predicted to be the Boston Red Sox (East), Cleveland Indians (Central), and a down to the wire duel between the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners for the West.

You know what they say about predictions: this is why we play the game. We’ll see who is still standing at the end of 162 games come October when baseball’s “second season” playoffs begin.

Opening Day remains to this day an almost religious experience for me. It is the one day of the year when every team is tied for first place and everything is possible. The failures of the past season are forgotten and forgiven, and the hopes and dreams of every fan are that “maybe this year our team will win the pennant and go to the World Series.” There is a sense of possibility and hopeful optimism, a sense of renewal and rebirth with the coming of Opening Day.

Anticipation of Opening Day begins in late winter and grows stronger with each passing day. To this day, the four sweetest words in the English language are for me “pitchers and catchers report” to Spring Training. Childhood memories of playing Little League baseball and sandlot baseball can be triggered by the faintest scent of fresh cut grass on a warm spring day, the smell of a sun-warmed leather baseball glove, and the smell of popcorn and hot dogs wafting from a nearby vendor’s cart.

Despite the many failings of this asterisk* era of baseball, it has not diminished my love for the game. Nor can anyone ever take from me my memories of some of baseball’s greatest legends who I had the distinct privilege to see play, or my memories of some of the greatest games ever played which I can replay over again in my mind as if it were only yesterday.

James Earl Jones (as Terrence Mann) in the movie Field of Dreams said it best:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America is ruled by it like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

I really need to make a pilgrimage to Iowa again. It’s been a long time.

Comments are closed.