“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” — Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
The crisp air still bites despite our best efforts to wish warm days into existence. The lamb that March goes out as is never as meek as we want and the early April sun is fool’s gold.
The miserable heat we curse throughout July and August would be a godsend if only for just one afternoon. Noses still run and the tops of ears ice, left exposed by ballcaps, as the game of America’s summers begins another season.
Baseball’s Opening Day is my first day of spring. The most fantastic feeling of fresh air infuses my body with hope. On the first day of spring, we are presented with a blank canvass and a day for dreaming irrational dreams. Maybe this will be the year the savior of the franchise leads us to salvation.
In a season made of 162 game days, this day is different.
Hope can be reasoned away when it is just pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida. Dreams can be dismissed by spring training struggles, a lack of proven starting pitchers, inconsistent hitters, and unknown youngsters. And many predictions of a last place finish can temper expectations, too, but a win on Opening Day means supporting a winning ballclub. And one that sits atop the standings.
Growing up an Orioles fan in Baltimore this day meant that no matter how awful the team we supported through years of embarrassing losing was, today was different. Tomorrow we could return to being the basement dwellers of the American League East, but today we got to root for a team without a losing record.
Why is this day different? Because today I feel smitten with baseball like I did as a young boy. Before bad ownership and mismanagement led to years of losing as the fabled “Oriole Way” faded from view and hope seemed like a waste of time. Love for baseball should have been driven out of me for good.
But at the first gathering of the faithful at Camden Yards on Opening Day, the collective wellspring of positive thoughts from the parishioners can overwhelm even the crustiest of cynics.
Why is this day different? Because today is when we duck out of work and sneak the kids out of school with a bogus doctor’s note. Please excuse Ben from school today he has an appointment with Dr. Longball. — Earl Weaver
Today half the nation makes one of the most blatant public jailbreaks and steals away to the ballpark. We run out on our normal lives in broad daylight to get that first glimpse at our special someone, our Summer mistress.
Why is this day different? Because today we have a Baltimore breakfast: beer and oysters in the shadow of Babe Ruth’s birthplace and a pit beef sandwich before an afternoon first pitch. A Baltimorean communion.
The food connects us to where we are from and who the team represents: the culture, the people, the City of Baltimore. Replenishing our souls and renewing our faith.
Why is this day different? Today we walk into Camden Yards and get the first glimpse of Kentucky Bluegrass that looks so bright it seems artificial. A baseball field all the more special when it is that patch of dirt amongst the concrete city.
With the first pitch, gray winter is vanquished. Spring has arrived.
We begin our 162-game odyssey of human determination. Testing the endurance and sanity of ballplayer and fan, alike. We will be different people come October.
Why is this day different? Because we have reached the starting point of the season and we are happy to have started running forward.
Ben Krimmel is a Baltimore-born writer and editor. www.benkrimmel.com