Opening Day: For Love of the Game

The long winter of our discontent has finally come to an end with the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season.

Sunday marks the “official” TV start of the season with three games, the NY Yankees v. Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants v. Arizona Diamondbacks, and the defending World Champion Chicago Cubs v. St. Louis Cardinals.

World Champion Chicago Cubs . . . I waited a lifetime to be able to say that!

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

My 2016 Minnesota Twins were the worst team that Minnesota has ever witnessed in 56 seasons of Major League Baseball, and the worst team in Major League Baseball with only 59 wins. At least they get some high round draft picks. The Chicago Cubs made up for my misery last season.

According to Bleacher Report predictions for the 2017 season, this season’s division winners should not be much different from last season: AL East: Boston Red Sox, AL Central: Cleveland Indians, AL West: Houston Astros, NL East: Washington Nationals, NL Central: Chicago Cubs, NL West: San Francisco Giants.

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.

Let’s play ball!

One Response to Opening Day: For Love of the Game

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Great post AZ.

    “We’ve got the setting – sunshine, fresh air, the team behind us. So let’s play two!” – Ernie Banks