ALSO THIS MONTH
TIM WALSH, a native of Berlin, Massachusetts, graduated in 1994 from Assumption College with a degree in English and Communications. His work for Renaissance Online marks his return to the literary world, as his last published work appeared in his school's student newspaper.
Every fan of major league baseball knows that going to a game in April can be a dicey proposition. Well, at least those who live in the northeast, midwest or Pacific northwest do. It's usually cold. Or rainy. Or cold and rainy. And fans in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco will remind you never to underestimate the wind chill factor.
Heck, April games have even been postponed on account of snow. Except for maybe sitting through an NFL game in an open-air stadium on a cold metal bench in December, there's not much worse than watching nine innings in 43 degree weather. (Fortunately, baseball's powers-that-be have realized this, and now it's customary to have east coast teams start the season on the road in warm weather locales or under domes.)
But the high risk of crummy weather aside, nothing beats having tickets for your team's home opener.
Walking up the runway and seeing the field for the first time since September, you know that regardless of what the calendar may say, the return of baseball marks the real beginning of spring. While the weather may not be spring-like yet, at least you have baseball to occupy your thoughts till May's warm days arrive.
If you've been lucky enough to attend Opening Day, you know it's true: absence does make the heart grow fonder. Ballpark experiences you may have taken for granted seem so fresh, so heightened on Opening Day. The sausages being grilled by the street vendors smell that much sweeter. The outfield grass appears that much greener. Your team's home uniform looks that much whiter. And even if you're from Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh, your team is still in the thick of the pennant race. It's enough to make you want to start belting out John Fogarty's "Centerfield".
For the diehard baseball fan, it's near nirvana. After all, winter's hot stove league is nice, but it's just not the same. How many Fernando Viña trade rumors can you hear before your eyes glaze over? How often can you deal with being reminded that $26 million for four years is the going rate for a good- hitting middle infielder? With baseball back, you forget about those little things. Everything in life that seemed so bad yesterday, doesn't seem quite as bad today.
Of course, Opening Day is also great because it's usually just that: a day game. The only minor drawback is that it's usually a weekday day game. So, you have to figure out a way to weasel out of work and head for the ballpark. But that, too, adds to the fun. Playing hooky or taking the day off is never a bad thing.
The buzz of the crowd on Opening Day is unlike that at any other regular- season game. And this year, the excitement should be greater than ever. Never before has baseball been coming off such an amazing season (and off- season). We've got the record-busting Yankees. Will they be even more dominant now that they have Clemens? We also have Kevin Brown, the $105 million man. Will he make the Dodgers a contender? And who could forget "Mike" McGwire and Sammy "Sooser"? Surely one of them will hit... do I hear 80 home runs?
It sure will be interesting. It's hard to imagine that 1999 could top 1998. But even if it doesn't, that's okay. We'll still have Opening Day 1999, a day to relive the glories of 1998 and wonder about things to come.
It's Opening Day. It's baseball. It's red, white and blue bunting. It's the true dawn of spring. It's the smell of roasted peanuts outside and inside the park. It's hope springing eternal. And no, it's not a national holiday. But I bet it's a day you get a lot more excited about than, say, Columbus Day.
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