As a baseball fan, you just can’t beat the excitement of Opening Day.
For starters, it’s a telltale sign that spring and summer are on the way, even if the perversely pervasive wintry Chicago weather lingers into May.
It marks the return of baseball to our everyday consciousness in a way that we haven’t experienced since the Cubs fell out of the running last October.
This year’s offseason seemed especially interminable — and downright boring at times — with a hot stove that more closely resembled a broken hot plate from your high school chemistry class.
Opening Day means a new chance at glory for a Cubs team that can no longer claim the excuse of a World Series hangover. For those of us who didn’t get a good look in Spring Training, it means learning the ins and outs of the new players, and seeing their strengths and weaknesses play out in situations and games that actually matter.
As a fan, I know what Opening Day means to me. But I rarely pause to consider it from the perspective of the players. They are about to embark on a grueling new season. They’ve been waiting months to prove themselves again, improve on last year’s numbers, erase lingering memories of failure, or show what they can do on a new team or in a new role.
The length of the baseball season is one of the most fantastic and differentiating elements of the sport.
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Baseball players have the blessing and curse of time: There is plenty of time to get out of a slump, but also plenty of time to fall into one. There is plenty of time to recover from an injury, but innumerable opportunities to injure yourself, too. As a group, a team’s fortunes can ebb and flow in a way that makes the first game of the season count as much as the last. In essence, a single baseball game is really a microcosm of the entire season. Every out recorded in a game is necessary to get a win. Every game won throughout the season is necessary to make the playoffs.
While I hate when athletes are compared to soldiers and sports are compared to combat — these men are playing a child’s game, not protecting our country — there is something war-like about a baseball season in its longevity and outcome. Small bursts of progress over an extended period of time lead to victory. Stagnation and an inability to adapt lead to defeat.
The seven months of a baseball season is a long time. To the uninitiated or the uninformed, that might sound drawn out or boring. In reality, the slow burn of the season is what makes it so epic. Think about how much could change in your own life between now and October. Meanwhile the Cubs will keep playing — grinding their way to victory in extra innings on one night or being listlessly shut out on another — all the while hoping that they ultimately fly more Ws than Ls.