Opening Day is here! No day epitomizes hope and renewal like baseball’s annual rite of Spring. After a long winter’s nap, the tarp is pulled back revealing the lush green of the infield contrasted by the rich clay of the infield dirt. Today, everyone is in first place, even the Pirates!
Being a native Cincinnatian, Opening Day holds a special place in my heart. I’ve lived in other baseball cities and none does Opening Day like Cincinnati. Growing up, we awaited the return of the Big Red Machine. It was once again time to feast on the exploits of Bench, Rose, Morgan, and Perez. I only remember two occasions on which school was interrupted and we were allowed to watch TV. One was the quadrennial presidential inauguration. The other was Opening Day every year.
Half the school was always missing, either going to the game or going to the Findlay Market parade. Nothing much got done that day as we anxiously awaited the first pitch. On the way home, the bus driver would have Marty and Joe cranked up on the radio so we wouldn’t miss a pitch. Once home, my step-dad and I would renew acquaintances. Baseball was the one thing we shared together. Opening Day represented a literal Spring thaw to our relationship.
Perhaps my most vivid Opening Day memory, however, was the only actual opening game I’ve ever attended. Those tickets in Cincinnati have always been premium. My working class parents possessed neither the means, the contacts, or the ability to take off work to take me. In 1996, due to umpire John McSherry’s death, the opening game was actually postponed. That left some tickets available. I was teaching at an Episcopal school run by nuns. The day of the 2nd Opening Day, one of them approached me with the offer of their extra ticket if I could drive them to the game. What a day that was! Me, a 30 year-old single man, walking the streets of Cincinnati with two Episcopal nuns. We had a great time. I can’t remember whether the Reds won or not. All that remains for me is the wonderful time of fellowship between me, the sisters, and of course, the Reds.
So here’s to the Reds and another successful season. And to the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Phillies. And yes, to the Pirates, the Indians, and the Cubs. Hope is here. Anything is possible. Play Ball!
If you have a special Opening Day memory, please share it in the comments section.