Opening Day a Day Like No Other
By Christian Petrila
Opening Day is such a simple concept. It’s nothing more than the day of the first baseball games of the season.
Then why is it so different?
There’s just something about baseball’s beginning that just isn’t encapsulated in the NHL’s, NBA’s or NFL’s openers. Sure, the first games of the season are a big deal in those sports too. However, the feeling in the air just can’t compete with that of baseball’s.
Each sport has its respective preseason. The NBA and NHL have a handful of games scattered here and there, and the NFL has four meaningless exhibitions prior to the regular season. While baseball has a preseason in spring training, the difference is that many of the hometown fans don’t get to see their beloved team in action until the magical Opening Day.
From the final out of the World Series on Oct. 28 to the first pitch between the Astros and Rangers on Mar. 31, it was a span of 154 days. Almost half of a calendar year had passed between meaningful baseball games. Unlike the other leagues, the MLB doesn’t have any type of buffer in the middle of the offseason. The other three leagues have their respective drafts plopped right in the middle of the hiatus. Baseball, however, has winter. The offseason is especially long in Cleveland because winter in Cleveland means snow, gray and cold for four-plus months.
When Opening Day rolls around, though, there is no gray. As a matter of fact, when I woke up Tuesday morning, it was snowing hard; but it was also sunny. A clear blue sky blocked only by the white of snowflakes flying past. It’s almost like Mother Nature respects Opening Day.
Also different from many sports, the beginning of the baseball season doesn’t spell success or defeat. Every team has the same optimism entering the season, regardless of how the team finished last season. The baseball season is 162 games in which to prove the critics wrong. Everyone’s heard the classic saying at least once- “Everyone’s in first place on Opening Day.”
Opening Day might as well be a national holiday. Kids get pulled early from school for the game, parents call off work and the country essentially comes to a standstill.
Then there’s the scene at the ballpark. It’s an unmatchable experience for all five senses. Among the sights is a lawn greener than anything we could ever hope to see in our front yards. Then there’s the clear blue sky with the blinding Sun. One element that affects both sight and sound is the crowd. The roar of the crowd can not only be heard, but it can be felt too. Should you be fortunate enough to see a flyover, that also turns sound into a physical object. Opening Day is one of the rare occasions when you can feel sound. When it comes to smell, nothing can quite compete with the scent of ballpark hot dogs. Same goes with taste. But a ballpark hot dog on Opening Day? It’s one of the greatest edible experiences imaginable.
Then come the starting lineups. It’s a perfect chance to show appreciation to the guys who have been loyal to the team, while giving the new additions a warm welcome. Everyone in the home team’s jersey gets cheered on Opening Day. Even the guy who finishes the season with a .150 average gets a loud ovation on Opening Day.
Finally, the game starts. For some teams, it will be the only time all season when the fans are on edge with every pitch. There’s that collective groan whenever a call goes against the home team. There’s the massive roar that goes up when someone hits a home run. Finally, should the home team record the final out, it’s a crowd of 40k+ on its feet at once roaring and clapping.
Everyone loves Opening Day. Even the Rays – who had the worst attendance in baseball in 2012 – sold out the opener. The Indians drew 43,190 on Opening Day 2012. The very next game, that number dropped to 18,842. It’s the one game per year where a sellout is guaranteed.
So as the 2013 season gets underway, the same optimism returns as it does every year. Fans are cautiously optimistic about their team succeeding. There’s excitement aplenty throughout the country.
Still think Opening Day is just another day?
Photo: Vinnie Pestano