Buell's Eye: Opening Day
From the leather to the fresh cut grass, and all the way to each ballpark across the nation, there is just something that is perfect and pure about “Opening Day.”
Some look at it simply as the end of the winter and the start of spring; life renewed.
Other see that renewed life as the defining characteristic for their beloved team that failed to make the playoffs the year before.
For me, and especially stemming from the recent era that baseball is so eagerly trying to forget, “Opening Day” exhibits the meaning, passion, principles, and fundamentals that this game is truly still all about.
I have lived and breathed the game of baseball since before I could walk, back when my father would tell me about the heyday for his Pittsburgh Pirates, led by some ballplayer—his favorite—named Roberto Clemente. I would hear stories about his legacy, his roots, and his indescribably strong arm in right field when a long drive off of a wooden bat would take him back to the warning track for a running catch, followed by his immediate throw back to home plate on the fly when nobody was even expecting it.
I heard about this new up-and-coming star, this skinny and tall promising outfielder named Barry Bonds, just trying to follow in his own father’s giant footsteps.
The game was pure. It involved bunting the ball, stealing bases, and moving runners over. The home run was impressive, but it wasn’t the first story on Sportscenter the next morning. Pitchers dominated the mound for nine innings or more, players stayed on the same team for the duration of their career, and ballparks were named after local heroes and real people, not the highest incorporated bidder.
Thirty-plus years and thousands of drug tests later, this game has undoubtedly changed. Yet, through it all, “Opening Day” still holds true to its meaning, and there is plenty to cheer about.
It’s still about the leather. They still mow the lawn and drag the infield, and it still marks the start of another year in true baseball enthusiasts’ minds.
Last year, America celebrated its past time by watching the first pitch on television, live from Japan at 6 o’clock in the morning, Eastern Time.
This year, America gets to celebrate it normally, on a Sunday night, in true American fashion, live from Philadelphia, home of the reigning World Series’ champions.
Bringing it back home to the States is where it belongs, and focusing on the small, simple, and pure aspects of the game is exactly what baseball needs to do to return to its glory days.
Putting so much importance on the long ball and the numbers on the back of the baseball card had the same affect on the game that aggressively and blindly lending money had on the econom. It’s what got us in trouble in the first place.
Although we could always use more walk-ons like David Eckstein and comeback stories like Josh Hamilton’s, not every player is as big of a let-down as Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada.
There are 30 Major League Baseball teams, each with 40-man rosters and three Minor League organizations. There are stories to be celebrated and players to be cheered for on each and every level.
They are still making leather.
They are still cutting grass.
There can still be joy in Mudville.
And there will always be a time to celebrate “Opening Day”.
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