“In the beginning, there was no baseball. But ever since there have been few beginnings as good as the start of a new baseball season. It is the most splendid time in sport.” -B.J. Phillips
Fans of baseball know that so often we don’t choose baseball. Baseball chooses us. Whether it was initially through our fathers or mothers or our sisters or brothers or the strange cousin of the guy that was our best friend for three weeks in the spring of 1982…baseball picks us to be fans. It may have been watching Brooks Robinson dive into foul territory, jump up and make the throw to first that snagged our hearts. Maybe it was watching Sandy Koufax perform magic from the mound that first inspired wonder. Maybe it was that game turning, monster swing of Mike Piazza that slammed you into the game. Maybe it was a 10th inning rally in game six of the World Series that made us believe in the sport. Maybe it was just sitting in Shea Stadium for the first time after your mother got sick of listening to you whine all summer about having nothing to do and sent you with the church when they made their annual trip that turned it into a religion for you. Regardless of how, when or why it happened, baseball chose us.
For those of us lucky enough to have been chosen, Opening Day is is a special day. Even a sacred day. It’s they day when we, as chosen fans, renew our vows with the game. On Opening Day, we must decide whether we will choose baseball back, again. Baseball breaks hearts and breaks them in the most God awful ways. When the spring rolls around, game seven losses, late-season collapses and a crucial runner left standing at third are still fresh in your mind (ugh). We live and die with each game, all 162 of them and they happen in an almost unrelenting pace where we only get the three days in July to catch our breath. Being a baseball fan means enduring rain delays and getting soaked at the stadium. Being a baseball fan means knowing that any game could, by rule, go on forever and many of them feel that way. Being a baseball fan means sweating out a tired bullpen and hoping they don’t blow it this time. Being a baseball fan means knowing that even our favorite position players, who might be the best player in the world, is going to fail, with an absolute certainty, at least 60-70 percent of the time. Being a baseball fan means knowing that even our favorite pitcher is sure to lose several times a year.
And, on Opening Day, we make a decision to go through that again. Yes, baseball chooses us, but we decide if we are going to choose it back. And, despite all of the above, we always choose to go back. Even if our team is doomed to be the joke of the year. Even if we know that the first 145 are not going to seem nearly as important as the last 17. Even if we know that the heart break is coming, we choose to reinvest with baseball. We choose baseball back and pledge to give it our hearts and souls, because, like all good investments, we know the payoff will be worth it.
Hot dogs and a beer on a warm spring day in the stadium has no price on it. Watching a double play get turned as easily as turning a radio dial is beyond value. Knowing that your team will always have another shot at it tomorrow is unmatched in any other sport. Baseball is beauty and an indulgence. Extravagance and necessity. There is nothing that matches it, and on Opening Day, we make the decision to go all in…and most of the time, we have no choice.