It happens every spring. Here we are on the first day of the new baseball season. And once again, I got little sleep. It’s like I’m 10 years old all over again, not being able to close my eyes on Christmas Eve, not being able to wait until I see what Santa Claus brought me on Christmas morning.
And it happens every single spring.
That’s okay. I’ll make it through Monday. It’s Opening Day. It’s one of the best days of the years. Who needs sleep? There’s a legit reason I got only four hours of sleep.
Did I mention it’s Opening Day?
There’s just something about this day for a baseball fan. We’ve waited all winter, reading all about what our team has done to get better. We watched them in different uniforms with different hats playing everybody in the organization during the month of March to get ready.
Those games didn’t count. Today’s game does.
The start of a baseball season means something. It is hope, it is optimism and it is the knowledge that for the next six months we will be entertained on a daily basis by the game we love.
Loving baseball doesn’t mean we can’t love another sport, but if baseball pulls at your heart strings more than the others there is just something about this day. The term ‘Opening Day’ is appropriate for baseball only. We don’t hear that for any other sport, even though now the start of baseball season is spread out over a two-day period. When your team starts play, it’s Opening Day.
The crowd will be different. The stadium will look spiffy. There will be bunting spread out all over the ballparks. It wouldn’t be appropriate to see the half-circled, flag-like material in mid-June.
Only today. Only on Opening Day.
There are those who believe this day should be a national holiday. Yeah, it’s baseball fans who believe that, and who knows if we’re right or not. But there won’t be much work done today compared to the normal day. There will be efforts made all over the country to watch that all-important first game of the season.
It’s one of 162, but this particular game is always important. It’s the first time we see the new players in the uniform. It’s the first time we see how this year’s team looks different, and hopefully better, than last year’s team. It’s the first time we see what we’ve got, see what we are going to watch the next 180 days.
For the Atlanta Braves, there are some things that stick out on Opening Day. I remember the late Rick Mahler fondly on this day. He was a pitcher that started quite a few games on Opening Day and seemed to always do well, even better than he did in his other 30 starts or so during the season.
I think of how important it was in 1982 when Mahler pitched so well in San Diego to start the Braves on their way to a record 13 straight victories to begin the season. Starting off with a winning streak is nice, but as the Braves started 5-0 last year we learned it doesn’t always mean everything.
I think of how the 1991 opener was rained out at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The Braves and Dodgers had to wait another night to start the season, and we had to wait to see the rebuilt Atlanta roster constructed by this new general manager not many people know about at the time. But boy, didn’t John Schuerholz know what he was doing.
I think of the 1996 Opening Day, when the Braves played the Giants in freezing weather. It was the last home opener for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. They received their World Series rings that day. Plus, Greg Maddux beat San Francisco and the Braves got off to another great start.
And I think of the 2010 Opening Day, when Jason Heyward hit one of the loudest home runs in Braves’ history. Yes, it was loud. If you were there, you know it was loud.
The noise will be there today. The fans will be excited, people will be smiling. They’ll get in their seats early and want to watch the player introductions. This year, in particular, will be important to watch that, with all the new players for the Braves. It’ll be the first time many have ever seen Ender Inciarte or Erick Aybar. They’ll be able to welcome Jeff Francoeur home, and they’ll be able to see the pomp and circumstance associated with this special day.
There will be a flyover. That smell of the ballpark will be in the air. The national anthem will sound different today. And when we see that ceremonial first pitch, we’ll all know it’s time to “Play Ball!”
Yes, it’s Opening Day. I may be dragging a bit all day from not getting much sleep, but I’ll make it. There will be something that will spur me along and keep me wide awake. Baseball is back, and while tomorrow will be just another day, there is nothing like this special day.
And it happens every spring.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.