Today we stand on equal footing. Opening Day is baseball’s lone moment of fairness.
The projections and payrolls, lineups and rotations may all be grossly unequal, but today there is a fair start.
Baseball has given us this day. Don’t let it pass.
For those fanbases with lofty expectations, today is when reality begins to take full form. Business begins in earnest. The games will count from here on out.
And for those without, today is their final day to dream. One last chance to play the game of maybe. Opening Day is the day we all are gifted hope.
This day of hope, at the start of a marathon season, is the essence of baseball. Well, the essence of baseball fandom.
For better or worse, baseball in its current form is moving further and further from the realm governed by feelings, hunches, and gut-instincts. Emotions and hopes don’t play as well as they once did. The 150-year-old game with the same basic rules has almost been well and truly figured out. The game may be beyond the control of hopes and dreams in the impossible.
But baseball fandom remains entrenched in the world of emotion. Fandom makes its home in a land of daydreams. In a place where the main currency is still irrational hope.
In our youth, we dreamed our baseball dreams while laying in bed and tossing a ball skyward. We dreamed while pressing, folding, and forming our gloves into the perfect shape to scoop grounders. Dreamed as we stood in front of a mirror holding an imaginary bat made by wrapping our top hand around the bottom hand’s thumb.
Hoping our most audacious dreams could come at least half-true.
Hope is a big theme in American childhood. The same period in which many of us learned to love baseball, we learned about the great power hopes and dreams hold over our lives.
We forget a lot of those lessons over time.
During childhood, we all had hope in the unexpected. Hope in the improbable. Hope in the most ludicrous, never gonna happen in a million years, there are laws of physics that can’t possibly allow for what you want to happen to actually happen.
That kind of hope is the best kind of hope. The more absurd the better.
Opening Day is best spent returning to that mindset. Today is best spent rekindling those long dormant dreams. Ahead lies 162 games of harsh reality. Today we get dreams and hope.
Hope by those fans whose team has no reason for hope. Hope by those crusty old fans who had all but given up on hope. And in the age of tanking and strategic losing, hope that the process of bottoming out will be short and relatively painless.
Offering a prayer that they will at least not lose today: “If you only allowed us to win today and we lost for the rest of the season, it would be sufficient.”
Of course, there are only a few fanbases who today must utter that silent meditation — or at least that’s what the Commissioner would have you believe.
But even those who dream with the weight of expectation are met with resistance.
“So you really think this is going to be your year?” they’re pestered from outside.
“It could be,” they’ll answer.
“But why are you putting yourself through another season of torture? More than likely this will not end well for you.”
“But what if it does? Because I’ve got this feeling about this year.”
The pitching will be strong. The hitting timely. All the prospects will turn good. The veterans will remain wily. And the manager will push all the right psychological and bullpen buttons to produce a season worth experiencing. A season that from start to finish makes the journey worthwhile.
But, on this day of near unchecked high hopes, a warning: The glass had better be half full on Opening Day because today might be as good as it gets.
There is only one day left for all of us to dream. Let your cup overflow.
Exude as much confidence as possible. Eat yourself into a Ruthian bellyache. Drink as much as you can manage without making yourself the biggest fool at the ballpark. Soak up every tinge of anticipation. Enjoy every pang of nervous energy. Let yourself be carried away with every fantastical shout of excitement.
Because this may be your only day to enjoy the game of American summers. And summer is still some twelve weeks away.
For some fans, the losers lament about there always being a next year will come before the calendar flips to May. The beginning of everyone else’s baseball journey is really their destination.
I was among the 45,469 at Camden Yards a season ago. When we left the stadium that Opening Day, the Baltimore Orioles were 1–0 on the season. An extra-inning win gave them a share of the American League East lead.
The Orioles would lose 115 of their remaining 161 games. We had our one day. It was sufficient.
There is only but one guarantee in baseball: Everybody gets today.
So drink it up.
Ben Krimmel is a Baltimore-born writer and editor. www.benkrimmel.com