Opening Day looms on the periphery of all digital calendars. “Hope springs eternal” will be uttered by every baseball junkie across the country as their team, a contender or pretender, begins anew with the opportunity to chase that elusive bejewelled beast, a World Series ring. Years of futility will be flushed away with the first pitch, probably a heater on the outer edge of the plate. Or a wicked bender that paints the black and buckles the knees. Fans of perennial playoff juggernauts (Giants, Cardinals
Tom Brady) will once again expect greatness from their team.
In early April, nobody is in last place, 20 games behind. In early April, the aging veteran outfielder who has lost a step or three still believes he can halt Father Time. In early April, we will wear our ball caps, our overpriced jerseys, our feverish pinstriped pride, and plop down in the cheap seats, at the local sports tavern, on our faithful couch, and root root root for the home team. In early April, the past becomes meaningless; all failures and disappointments are incinerated by a reborn sun. Yesterday is a sad song; the present/future is a tune with unicorn notes, rainbow lyrics and a beat as sickly sweet as a strawberry milkshake. In early April, not unlike overcoming addiction, recovering from a busted relationship, or undergoing a spiritual revival deep within, we get to start over. We are allowed to slide into new, unblemished skin. Our hearts will pump vibrant, virginal blood. [Insert additional purple prose and dramatic verbiage that begins with V here]
Soon, the first swing of a new season will wreck the air with a ferocious unspooling of hope. Grab your mammoth soft pretzels/hot dogs/gnocchi with sage-butter sauce, draft your fantasy teams, stock up on some stellar craft beer, stare lovingly at every image of Bryce Harper you can find on the internet, and most importantly, remember to enjoy and embrace the journey. In early April, maple bats will tap on metal cleats, cowhide will snap with an aggressive hello, and life, as ugly and dark as it can be at times, will rise up in all its beautiful splendor once again. Baseball is knocking. Can you hear it?
This still gives me goosebumps. Decades of waiting for a playoff berth. Decades of still believing in early April. In 2012 the Nats (formerly my beloved Expos) made the postseason. And then in game 4, with the Nats on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs, Jayson “Werthquake” Werth became a legend. I ran through the house like a deranged, orgasmic leopard. I yelled weird and provocative things at the walls. I got my twerk on. And I understood how baseball is so much more than just a game. For one brief moment on an electric October night, the wrinkles were smoothed over, my stomach was flat again, and I tumbled oh so willingly into my younger days. I was that teenage boy in the backyard, well-oiled glove in hand, grass stains on my school jeans, pretending I was Tim Raines, Rod Carew, Sandy Koufax, or Nolan Ryan. A bleached mental snapshot of a time when we listened to games on the radio, jacked up on orange soda, NERDS candy, and pulsating hormones. A time when we could be and/or achieve whatever we wanted, no matter how outlandish, how seemingly impossible. A time that faded far too quickly.
Baseball is upon us.
Hope springs eternal.
Pretty sure he’s singing about baseball. Right? RIGHT?!?!