April 6, 2009. A day marked on my calendar since November. And while some will be celebrating National Caramel Popcorn Day, or observing the anniversary of the first modern Olympics, an unofficial holiday takes place that you won't find on your calendar. I speak, of course, of opening day—the most wonderful day of the year.
I know what you're thinking, "Opening day is on April 5th!" Sorry, you're wrong. The Braves and Phillies are playing a regular season game, yes. But are the Yankees? How about the Cubs? The Sox, Red or White? Dodgers, Mets, Rays, Cards? Nope, just the one game, a no-thank-you serving of what is to come. And I'll be watching, just not with bells on.
April 6 is the day that I call opening day. That's when you get to see it all, everyone's ace on the mound, every stadium with a capacity crowd, every team with a full lineup before blisters and hamstring pulls land stars on the disabled list.
The Red Sox looking for redemption on their ALCS loss to the Rays. That's what I want to see.
The Yankees trying to start out hot in April...for once. That's what I want to see.
Non-stop baseball from noon 'til midnight. That's what I want to see.
Will the Bronx Bombers be back in October? Will Mannywood thrive in a basketball town? Will the Mets find a way to make the playoffs? Will the Cubs win it all, or will it be another century before they do?
These are the stories that make baseball...baseball.
Baseball's opening day is truly magical, more so than any other sport. Sure, football fans will disagree, but the true sport die-hards knows that baseball is still top dog. It's the pistol to start the marathon, rather than football's whistle to start the sprint. Everyone starts 0-0, everyone has a chance to win it all, with every fan saying that "this is the year."
Baseball has all the plot lines, all the heroes and villains, and all the aspects of every other sport rolled into one.
College Hoops has the Cinderella, and so does baseball. What did you think when you saw the +2,000 money line on the Rays to win it all? Heck, did you even know they changed their name? Now think about it, 175 games later, those same Rays were world series favorites. Didn't see that one coming, did you? That's baseball.
Football and hockey have full-contact hitting and high-speed shots...and so does baseball. Remember Varitek and A-Rod going at it? Or the Angels bullpen running to home plate to participate in a Bronx-style melee? That's baseball.
Soccer has the beautiful plays and agile scores...and so does baseball. Torii Hunter scaling a wall, Derek Jeter with his signature jumping-across-the-body throw to first. That's baseball.
Baseball is wonderful, baseball is witty, baseball is beautiful, baseball is brutal. Spring has barely begun, and I'm already counting down the days until fall. And what next? April, 2010...a day I'll mark on my calendar in November.