Like any Broadway opening night, Opening Day in Major League Baseball is front-loaded with anticipation, exhilaration, hope, anxiety, and the will to show the world (Don’t say anything, cricket fans) that you are the best. Everyone starts in first place.
The San Francisco Giants will feel the most pressure, as they defend the championship of the world (Dash it all, cricket fans! To repeat, don’t say anything all ye who are following World Cup 2011.) for the first time since 1954 and the Polo Grounds.
Front-office pressure of another sort will be felt by a team like the New York Mets, a franchise steeped in a history that begins with the end of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants (the very same that are in San Francisco), whose ownership is embroiled in a potential scandal. Whether ownership is innocent or guilty, or perhaps somewhere in the middle if such is possible, it is inextricably implicated in a situation that is bigger than baseball.
For me, Opening Day brings back purer memories of first games attended. Traditionally an afternoon affair, school and then that first job and (unsteady) advancement from there, usually kept me away. Nonetheless, with a heavy case of high-school senioritis, I remember my very first Opening Day, 1971, trying to root for the Mets in what turned into a driving snowstorm. Tom “Terrific” Seaver pitched. The last Opening Day I attended was at Yankee Stadium, 2001, also in horrible weather, mostly a driving rain. It was the spring the Yankees hoisted the Flag having defeated the crosstown Mets in the World Series the previous October 26, with that unforgettable Luis Sojo worm-burner, seventeen-hopper up the middle that basically and dramatically ended that season.
Forty years have passed….Ten years are gone….There are beginnings and endings, a time to be born and a time to die, and to be reborn in death if we could envision it. When the snow this winter was literally so deep one couldn’t find the mailbox, it was difficult to imagine we would once again see the green grass and hear the umpire cry, Play Ball!
Get the thermometer, Mom. I’m coming down with Pennant Fever.