Opening Day: For Love of the Game

baseballsWhat a weird way to start the Major League Baseball Season. The Los Angeles Dodgers already have a 2-1 record with a pair of wins over the Arizona Diamondbacks — in Australia — and a loss on Sunday night against the Padres.

Today, however, is the “official” Opening Day of the baseball season. Here is the opening day schedule of games, already under way. Major League Baseball Schedule.

There is going to be a number of changes to the game this year, some of which I oppose — in particular, the home plate collision rule. Seriously? As an old catcher who gave as good as he got at home plate, I have to say this is part of the game! Don’t mess with the fundamentals of baseball. Pete Rose, I know you’re with me on this one!

Think Progress has an excellent breakdown of the changes to the game this year, On Opening Day, Previewing The 2014 Baseball Season (summarized):

It is Derek Jeeter’s farewell tour season after 20 years in Yankees pinstripes. I am sworn to hate the godless Yankees, but damn, Derek Jeeter is one of the greatest athletes who has ever played the game.  A definite first ballot selection to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I tip my hat out of respect to you, Captain. You will be missed.

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is leaving at the end of the season, and all I can say is good riddance! The man has presided over the asterisk* steroid era of baseball — in fact, promoted it with the homer derby of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa following the disastrous cancellation of the 1994 World Series due to a players strike, and again later with Barry Bonds, Jr. and now “A-Rod,” Alex Rodriguez, who is suspended this season due to the Biogenesis scandal. Selig put the pursuit of corporate profits over preserving the purity of the game. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, or even a Bowie Kuhn, he ain’t.

I am of two minds on instant replay. Yes it’s a way to get the call right, but perfection has never been demanded in baseball, i.e., calling balls and strikes, for example. Baseball has always had an element of subjective umpire calls. I am always amazed by how often umpires actually get the call right on a bang-bang play.

Here’s how instant replay will work: managers will enter each game with one challenge. If they win that one, they’ll get another. And from the sixth inning on, umpires have the power to review plays without a managerial challenge. A central office will handle reviews. “Force plays, tag plays, ground-rule doubles, hit by pitches and fan interference are on the roster of challengeable situations.” Baseball games already last too long, they just got longer.

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 (well, not this year) 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.

Let’s have a great season, boys. Play ball!

UPDATE: Awesome! The 85th All-Star Game this year is at Target Field, the home of my Minnesota Twinkies, on July 15. 2014 MLB AllStar Game At Target Field.

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