April 5, 2009.
One-hundred and fifty-eight days of withdrawal between Brad Lidge’s strikeout to win it all at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark on Oct. 29 and the opening pitch in the very same stadium.
It starts tonight at 8 p.m. ET where the reigning champs play host to the Braves.
It begins in Philadelphia, but where will it end?
Magic begins. Miracles happen.
The sound of the wood bat striking a 98 mile per hour fastball. The feel of your hand inside a freshly-oiled glove.
The days start getting a little longer. The weather a little warmer. Springtime is here.
25 men, nine coaches, a front office and an entire stadium full of fans all pulling together.
Baseball is America’s sport. America’s pastime.
There’s a feeling of optimism within each of the 30 teams today.
A fresh start. A new chance.
An opportunity to prove that their transactions over the winter have put them in position to be the best team in baseball. This could be the year.
The pennant will be raised in Philly. The Rays will try to prove last year wasn’t just a fluke. The Yankees are in a new home, and will try to make a comeback after not being invited to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
The dirt has been watered. The lines are chalked. The smell of the freshly cut grass lingers in the air. Pine tar is spread up the first 17 inches of the bats.
Tell Fenway Park to strike up “Sweet Caroline” after the sixth inning again and “Tessie” after a Red Sox win. Wrigley fans can join in the infamous “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” singing during the seventh-inning stretch.
Maybe year 101 will be the lucky year for the Cubs to finally break their curse.
Each jersey is pressed. Each light and each seat in the stands has been checked as the scoreboard lights up for the first time.
Contracts are finalized. Lineups are penciled in. But the road to the postseason is anything but certain.
Summer nights will soon settle in where there is no better place to be than at the ballpark. Fans of all ages will soon fall asleep to the voices of Peter Gammons, Harold Reynolds, and Kurt Ravech on Baseball Tonight.
The boys of summer.
Inside the stadium, concession lines will form as hot dogs are cooked. Ketchup, mustard, and all of the condiments of your choice.
Sunflower seeds, peanuts, and cracker jacks.
Fans willing to shell out $11 for a hot dog and soda, and not ashamed to do so—just for a chance to witness something great. The chance to see someone great. The chance to witness history.
A towering 450-foot home run. Hustling around first base and sliding into second for a double down the line. Taking one step too many and getting caught in a pickle which turns to be a 1-3-6-1-4-3 out to end the inning.
Stains on the jersey from a diving catch deep in the outfield. Collisions at the plate.
Infuriated managers. Ejections.
Catchers giving pitchers signs. Pitchers shaking off the catcher’s sign.
A suicide bunt to score the tying run. A grand slam. Hitting for the cycle.
Extra innings. Game-winning walk-off hits. Fireworks. Excitement. Celebrations.
Grown men dog piling on top of each other.
Baseball brings euphoric emotions to each of its fans.
Dreams begin for children today. Dreams for their team. Dreams of playing someday.
Dreams for adults. This game allows them to become kids. Fathers and sons enjoying their first glimpse of the new season while playing hooky from work and school.
We witnessed extraordinary events in 2008: two no-hitters, Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run, Ken Griffey Jr. hitting his 600th, a phenomenal showing by Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby, a 15-inning All-Star Game, and two historic stadiums hosting their final games.
What will be in store for 2009?
Gary Sheffield’s 500th career home run? Randy Johnson’s 300th career win?
An unassisted triple play? The game’s 18th perfect game?
Button up your jersey. Tighten your newly-polished cleats. Adjust your cap and get ready. The boys are back in town, ready for a 162-game dogfight for the chance to be crowned the world’s greatest.
Baseball is back.
This article is also featured on View from the Rockpile with additional photos.