Well, beat the drum and hold the phone – the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
There’s an old saying in baseball. It goes a little something like this: Life begins on Opening Day.
That is a statement 100 percent true. This afternoon at around 4:07 p.m., weather permitting, Jeremy Guthrie will deal the first pitch of the Yankees’ season to Derek Jeter, and that countdown to game 162, to October, to a possible parade begins.
Every year, Opening Day is a special time for me. We spend the winter going over the what if’s. Who’s going to sign where? Who’s going to start? Who’s going to relieve? Who plays center field? Who overpaid? Who underpaid? Who wins the hardware? Who finds himself on the wrong end of a scandal?
It makes for great conversation, but it’s not baseball. For six months now, the Yankees haven’t played a game that counted. They closed out the season last year on Sept. 28, 2008 with a ten-inning loss to the Red Sox. For the first time since I was 11, the Yanks failed to play a game in October, and the team went out with a whimper.
Now we’re perched on the edge of a brand new day. Every one, every team, every pitcher is at 0, and the promise of a new season is fresh in the air. No one is facing an uphill climb to the pennant. No one is facing a firesale, a declining season, a disappointing performance. Everyone is just waiting for it to count again.
For the Yankees and their fans, the start of the season has come to mean expectation. Since Luis Gonzalez’s bloop fell beyond the reach of Derek Jeter on a warm November evening in Arizona seven and a half years ago, the Yanks have had the weight of baseball expectations on them. They’ve spent more money than any team since 2001 and have nothing but one AL pennant to show for it. Every year, they land the Next Big Thing and are picked to win it all. When they fall short, it’s a disappointment.
This year, though, it’s different. The Yanks, all $209 million of them, are underdogs. Sure, they have Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Sure, they have a multi-billion-dollar ballpark that offers riches for the richest and more money for the Yanks’ coffers. But they’ve been picked by many to finish third in a very competitive division. Before the season starts, the Yanks, used to lofty expectations, are being told not to expect much. That’s okay with me. It’s makes watching the games that more fun this year.
As 4 o’clock rolls around this afternoon, I’ll be wrapping up a class. I’ll head home, flip on the TV, and there will be baseball. There will be the Yanks in their road grays taking on the Orioles. It will be one of 162, and it will be a glorious rebirth of baseball, the game that kills us or elates us on a nightly basis, the game we love. It will be the two finest words in April. It will be Opening Day.
Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.