Opening Day is such a beautiful harbinger of things to come — great weather, the summer, cool, crisp beer, and baseball. Here’s a piece that I wrote a few years ago on the eve of the season; the sentiment still applies today, with a few minor tweaks and updates:
Up here in the North, the sky is gradually turning from a dull gray to a vibrant blue. The grass is getting greener, the trees are getting stronger, the flowers are beginning to come out in full bloom. Birds are chirping outside my window, calling everyone to come out and take advantage of the beautiful onset of Spring. Of course, this type of weather has been residing in Arizona and Florida for over a month, but its migration up, to force out the winter, signals that the most poetic day of the year is nearly upon us.
With the ceremonial first pitch of Opening Day preparing to fly wide or short of the plate in a week, fleeting Spring hopes are beginning to get dashed, and some dreams are becoming a reality. This is the beauty of spring baseball, grizzled veterans fighting for the honor of one last glorified moment in the sun. Across the field, and sometimes right next to them, are mere children, some less than half their teammates’ age, attempting futile mind-over-matter exercises to temper their excitement and calm their nervous bats and gloves. Few can make it to the bigs in any given year, but the youngsters can take solace in the fact that their time will come; there will always be a next year. Always, that is, until your body no longer allows you to play the game the way you once played it; always, that is, until you become one of the broken-down men with whom you’re currently locked into this passionate competition for playing time and a roster spot. While they know their time will soon come, they want you to learn, they want you to develop, they want you to succeed. Whether he’s a minor-league lifer, or a former star coming down from his cloud, ever so slowly, he wants to teach you, help you grow as a ballplayer and as a man, make sure you take the most direct path to becoming both a star and a gentleman. While you listen and learn, know that you need to take their advice, but adapt it and forge your own path, for you are not those who came before you. Walk in a shadow, you will go forever unnoticed; create your own image to pass down to others, and you will go forever remembered.
All teams are equal on Opening Day. Some may be more highly favored, others may be more criticized, but look at the standings: there is no difference. A talking head’s prediction, a sportswriter’s prognostication — those aren’t to be taken as gospel, they are simply more emotive ways of saying “educated guess”. That is the beauty of baseball — over 162 games, any and every team has the chance to make its mark in its own way. Teams can create their own success, and stave off their own failure. Aaron Crow is a tremendously talented young pitcher — who’s to say that he doesn’t put it all together and, teaming with Rivera-lite Joakim Soria, become Bret Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry reincarnate? Phenom Mike Moustakas, channeling George Brett comparisons from the day he was drafted, prepares to man third base for the big club sometime this season, and soon enough, will look across the diamond to see fellow top prospect Eric Hosmer at first. Is it entirely unfair to say that the lowly Kansas City Royals can’t recreate their 1985 magic and win the World Series? Improbable, yes. Impossible? No. The Royals have the same record as the Rangers, Yankees and Red Sox right now, tied atop the standings. For any and all, for young fans and young players, for old fans and old players, for coaches, managers, owners — baseball is a constantly evolving work of the best poetry ever written. Hope ALWAYS springs eternal on the diamond at the changing of the seasons.