it's opening day! not opening night, not japanese opening day for MLB. no. it's opening day. the parades and parties will resonate through the streets of cincinnati (the official traditional home of MLB opening day every year) in just a couple of short hours and a new baseball season will usher in the long days of summer.
growing up in eastern indiana, the cincinnati reds were the closest thing to a home team i had to cheer for, and while i had favorite players and personalities across both leagues, the reds always had a special place in my heart. and this year there is particular excitement surrounding the home team. the reds traded the farm for a couple of pitchers and re-signed canadian do-everything phenomenon joey votto to a $250mil, 10 year contract, locking up one of the best in baseball. meanwhile, the rival evil-doer cardinals lost albert pujols to the AL and milwaukee lost prince fielder, also to the AL. it's a big deal when a small market team like the reds can ante up that kind of coin to keep a player like votto, especially when similar small market teams lose their own top-dollar talent to high payroll, bigger market teams. and it says a lot about votto that he would want to stay in the small market, unlike pujols who jettisoned the midwest for the fake tits and mickey mouse ears of LA. that being said. the reds have a chance. which always sets up a vaudevillian comedy of errors of hopes and dashed dreams.
but today is opening day. and hope has yet to hear the march of clowns playing in the background, or that idiotic bennie hill piano chase scene. baseball has long been spoken of as the 'america's past time.' but with the NFL's year long season/off-season celebrity culture, baseball has taken a backseat in terms of tv time, public attention, and the popularity of american athletics. but baseball doesn't intend to be the fanfare of coors light commercials and mcD's tv timeouts. baseball is a slow game. meticulous and thoughtful. and it is best watched from the seats of the stadium, $7 beer in one hand, and $4 hot dog in the other. in the cool spring afternoons, there's nothing better than losing 4 hours of work to 4 hours in the stands.
as a kid, i got to go to only a few games, as the 3 hour drive and the family of five to buy tickets for and feed got expensive. but to sit way up at old riverfront stadium and watch the likes of eric davis and chris sabo, barry larkin and rob dibble, tom browning and paul oneill was like something magical. we'd go early and rush to try to get autographs during batting practice. these were the heroes from my baseball cards and posters and magazine pictures, right there in real life. bigger than real life. i always took my mitt along with me with the hopes of catching one of eric davis sky high pop up home runs, though i never did.
and opening day brings back all that nostalgia, playing under the bright spring sunshine, before the smiling ghosts of all the greats the stepped across that limestone line and became legend. here's to baseball. and here's to summer. and here's to hope.