Play Ball! My wife and I have started a tradition of going to opening day of the MLB season every year. The last two seasons, opening day has been held in Anaheim, so it's no big deal for us to get in the car and drive down the 5 Freeway and watch baseball begin for another year. This year opening day had a bit of a melancholy feel to it.
On one hand, the Anaheim Angels- a team that I have grown to root for since moving to California- are coming into the 2003 season as the defending World Champions of baseball. The World Championship banner was raised in left-center field, the trophy was displayed for everyone to see, fireworks were going off as we saw highlights from the come-from-behind victory in Game 6 of the series, and then the final out in Game 7 played repeatedly on the giant screen in centerfield. It was a perfect day for baseball.
On the other hand, our country is currently at war. I had some trepidation about going to a baseball game. There is something about the atmosphere during war that makes you feel as if you shouldn't be doing the things you enjoy. It seemed trite to go and cheer for a flag that had a big red A on it when there is a much bigger red, white and blue flag that should be capturing our attention. My love for the game convinced me to go to Anaheim and enjoy the festivities. After all, if I have learned one thing in all my years as a Braves fan, it is that you better celebrate being the Champions when you can, because you never know when you will get that opportunity again. So we went…
Like we always do, my wife and I got to the ballpark early. I didn't want to miss any of the festivities and in a lot of ways I like batting practice as much as the actual game. We got to the park about two hours before game time and it was already a sea of red in the seats. Many people had already inflated their thunder sticks, so despite the beautiful California day you could hear the distant rumble of what you knew was an impending storm of celebration. There was a large "U.S.A." that had been cut into the outfield grass to set the tone for a wonderful day of baseball.
The Angels and the Rangers took their turns during batting practice and warm ups, and like every year on opening day I revert back to being an awestruck kid in the bleachers, pointing out to my wife when Alex Rodriguez walks onto the field for the first time. As more and more fans started filling into their seats, I felt that I was going to be part of something special.
Before the game started, we had the National Anthem played very traditionally by a brass quartet from the United States Marine Corp and the US Flag was carried onto the field by Color Guard group that featured a representative from every branch of the United States Military. In the outfield, a giant U.S. flag was being unveiled as we observed a moment of silence for those who are serving and have lost their life during the war in Iraq. This beautiful moment was culminated by four F-14 Tomcat fighter jets flying right over out heads. I, like many of the 43,000 plus people in attendance, fought back tears and the entire scene can be summed up by the single tear that went down the face of the lady sitting in front of me.
As the crowd erupted into a chant of U.S.A! U.S.A! my guilt for attending a baseball game had completely disappeared. I realized that baseball truly is America's pastime. The people in that stadium were not just celebrating the start of a new baseball season. They weren't just celebrating a World Championship for their home team. We were celebrating all of the men and women who sacrifice their lives everyday in order to allow us to go cheer for the team that we want to cheer for. We were celebrating the freedoms that are afforded to us by the Armed Forces of the United States of America. And yes, we were celebrating baseball.
Past Time – MLB, Fans Honor America
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