For the Love of the Game
I have a confession to make. I do not really like sports. Pushed too hard by a sports-obsessed father, I adopted his favorite games as my own while knowing deep down that I was living a lie. I know that a sports column is an odd place for an announcement like this, but I feel that this is the best way for me to reach as many people as possible.
April Fools'. Following sports with my dad has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I have enjoyed every second of it. However, there is one day in sports that affects him far less than it does me, mainly because I grew up watching baseball since age 11 and he did not. That day is Major League Baseball's opening day. That day is today.
Well, technically it was yesterday, if you count last night's Texas Rangers-Houston Astros game, but for 24 other fanbases, the MLB season begins today.
Why do I love opening day? Let me count the ways:
The day games. I know there are hundreds of day games on the schedule, but none of them convinces a fan to play hooky from work as much as opening day. There are nine day games this year, and when I settle in to watch the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees at 1:05 p.m., I will be reminded of the days I spent rushing home from middle school to catch as many innings as possible of the first game of the year.
Hope. The promise of a new season means that every team starts out 0-0, and that the harsh memories of last year (hello, Red Sox fans) are about to be wiped away and replaced by whatever 2013 has in store. The Houston Astros lost 213 games over the last two seasons, and will now move from the National League Central division to the more competitive American League West. Okay, maybe there isn't any hope in Houston, but for the 29 other teams, 2013 offers a chance, however small, that everything breaks right.
The greatest starting pitcher lineup of the season. 24 teams will play a game today, and 24 teams will send their best pitcher to the mound. Though not every team has a true ace available right now, whether due to an injury or lack of talent, the names are still pretty impressive. CC Sabathia, Stephen Strasburg, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez are all pitching today. So are Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw against each other. It does not get any better than that for a baseball fan.
The first glimpse at a new signing. Spring training has been going on for over a month now, but unless you are a die-hard baseball fan, you probably spent most of March focusing on the Miami Heat's 27-game win streak or the NCAA basketball tournament. For many, today will offer the first chance to see "the new guy" in game action, whether it be Josh Hamilton in Anaheim, James Shields in Kansas City or the Upton brothers reunited in Atlanta. Sorry, Toronto Blue Jays fans. You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see R.A. Dickey pitch.
The hot starter. By the end of the day, chances are that someone you have not heard off will have done something heroic to help his team win, whether it is a walk-off home run, a 4-for-5 day at the plate, or a huge catch in center field. Sometimes that guy even turns into a Chris Shelton or an Emilio Bonifacio, putting together an impossibly hot streak to start the season. While most of these players eventually turn back into pumpkins, it is fun for everyone to see how long they can keep it going.
Baseball is back. The most simple reason to be excited for opening day is also the best one, as it means that baseball is a part of my life for the next seven months. I will admit that I do not maintain this level of intensity as a baseball fan all season long rare is the man who is as excited for an August getaway game as he is for opening day but just as the players convince themselves that they are destined to win the World Series, I try to tell myself that this is the year I watch every game, read every story and be the best baseball fan I can be.
Try to stop by a television at some point today, even if it is just for a half-inning. At the very least, a glimpse at a beautiful green field and some sparkling white uniforms should remind you that, unlike in "Game of Thrones," summer is coming.