With the World Baseball Classic coming and going, and starting pitchers going more than three innings in spring training games, that can only mean one thing, opening day is around the corner. Baseball is America’s pastime, end of story. While this New York Times article indirectly argues that football has overtaken baseball as America’s sport, there is nothing more distinctly American than playing catch with a father, brother, friend, uncle, et.c, in a backyard (or in my case, Central Park). Through this, I would argue that whether your team is playing or not, Opening Day is the best day of the baseball season.
On Sunday, the season opens with the intriguing match-up of the Texas Rangers at the Houston Astros in the Astros first American League game (having just switched from the National to American League’s to even the two out), and thus starts Baseball season. While hardly the best game of the year as players still shake off rust, and in this year, the opening day starters are hardly household names (Matt Harrison had a very good year last year, but hardly qualifies as a household name and Bud Norris did not record a win between May 21 and September 26), that does not make me any less excited for the season to start.
For one thing, this year will be the first year in which every day of the season features inter-league play. In the past, the American League had 14 teams and the National League had 16, and only for small pockets of the season did inter-league play occur. Having a week or two set aside in June is a thing of the past as on April 1, the American League Angels travel to the National League Reds.
But while Opening Day of an 162-game season may sound immaterial as teams have 161 more games to play after, Opening Day is like reading the first page of a great book. Though there is not always immense amounts of action on the first day, baseball’s return is like seeing the first robin of the year, you know it’s coming but that does not make it any less exciting. For me, baseball conjures up memories of sitting in Section 202 of Yankee Stadium and heckling whomever is lucky enough to be playing Right Field that day.
The other great part of baseball is that you do not have to be the most active fan to enjoy it. While some people sit down every night for the opening pitch to watch all of the action, many more turn on the TV or the Radio and go about their evening with the smooth sounds of the announcer’s voice adding their input to the action on the field. While some study every box score, others quickly glance at it; the important part is that it is there.
But the best part of Baseball is that it means something different to everyone. Whether it is catching a game with a family member or friends, looking at the foul ball you caught one time, or enjoying dinner while Vin Scully talks about Clayton Kershaw, the three hours (or four if you are a Yankees fan) spent watching or listening to a baseball game is the best diversion one can have. So even as football becomes more and more a 12-month sport, there is nothing more synonymous with summer and America than baseball.