You did it.
No, we did it.
After what can only be described in the words of George Harrison as “a long cold winter,” the rites of Spring have brought with it the return of the National Pastime.
Yes, Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is here. This time of year brings a cornucopia of emotions to many million a baseball fan.
Opening Day elicits a renewed sense of hope. Will Mike Trout remain on a Mickey Mantle trajectory? Is Luis Arraez the same hitter in Miami as he was in Minnesota? It is our desire to see the established stars of the game continue to succeed and to see other individuals break through to join them and breathe the same rarified air.
A new year means the yearning for our hometown teams to make a push for October. Optimism will never be more universal than it is in this moment when we’re all 0-0, no one’s allowed a run, and no one’s had to make that lonely walk back to the dugout following a strikeout. To aptly quote another Beatle, John Lennon once said, “it’ll be just like starting over.”
Opening Day exacerbates our proclivity for statistics. The vast majority of the next half-year is blocked out for perusing the domains of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference, using the findings as ammunition in countless debates about who’s better than whom.
It’s the return of small sample-size fodder. In the season’s infancy, we marvel at the out-of-the-gate hot stretches and surmise how and whether they’ll sustain themselves. For every 2014 Emilio Bonifácio—who OPS’d 1.131 over his then-Cubs team’s first 7 games before reverting to his expected below-average offensive output—there is a 2009 Zack Greinke, whose 0.50 April ERA laid the groundwork for an eventual AL Cy Young award and started him on the path to a potential first-ballot selection to Cooperstown. All made possible to us with the promise of a new year of baseball.
Our infatuation with round numbers begets more storylines. Some 2023 examples:
- 3 more wins give Clayton Kershaw 200 for his career.
- 8 more trips around the bases means 350 dingers for Joey Votto.
- 147 strikeouts put Justin Verlander in the top 10 all time.
That’s only just scratching the surface.
A new season renews divisional rivalries that transcend generations, conjuring up memories of some of the game’s most storied moments. We watch Yankees-Red Sox with the reminder of Ruth being sold for a Broadway play in 1920, which gave rise to what has since been baseball’s most successful franchise; Dodgers-Giants is Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” and the accompanying Russ Hodges call that has become as lauded as the hit itself; and Cubs-Cardinals is the 1998 home run chase between McGwire and Sosa, one of baseball’s last truly national sagas before the viewing audience shrunk and fragmented.
This marks the return of the sport’s wackiness. Will we see a starting pitcher throw 1 pitch and lose a game the way Pablo López did in 2021? What is the strangest explanation we’ll hear for a player injury? The absurdity of it all will soon be unmasked.
Most importantly, Opening Day brings us back to our baseball roots, playing catch in the front yards of suburbia, the parks that neighbored our homes, the alleyways and streets of major metropolises, or even the unkempt grounds in countries outside of our own. It binds us to kinship: fathers to sons, grandchildren to grandparents, brothers to sisters, mothers to sons. It fortifies relationships that last a lifetime.
A new season is the turning of the page, one we all can’t wait to read.