Opening Day: Play Ball

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
FLUSHING, NY – APRIL 3: Shea Stadium is shown during the Opening Day game between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals at Shea Stadium on April 3, 2006 in Flushing, New York. The Mets won 3-2. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

For as long as I can remember, I wrote a poem or reflection on each and every Opening Day to mark the occasion.

I would dream of home runs, strikeouts, and hopes for a few night games in the big ballpark in Flushing. I would look back to the limited past glory, and optimistically look forward, hoping our roster was finally good enough to be the last team standing.

This year, my attempt to capture what this day means occurs in the final week of July- and the game, in many ways, never felt so irrelevant.

There are plenty of reasons to disregard this baseball summer:

  • The distasteful battle over money between the millionaire players and billionaire owners was (and remains) frustrating especially as record number of Americans are unemployed.
  • To care about a game feels less important when hundreds of thousands have died, and sadly, many more will before year’s end due to a gut-wrenching pandemic.
  • As tens of thousands march for justice and peace across our land, a game is not the best place to direct our attention and energy.
  • Players, coaches, grounds crew, and all involved,  are putting their health at risk (and that of their families as well) for a game.

Yet, as I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but feel giddy at the thought of Mets baseball. Fans of other teams join me as they dress in their team colors, wave their flags, and dream of popping champagne in October.

Baseball is welcomed, despite its imperfection, because it allows us to get lost, to find community (even if it is virtual), and to remember those better days when we cheered from the sun-soaked bleachers, took in all the sights, smells, and sounds, and embraced strangers during a late-inning rally. It also invites us to look forward to that glorious day when we can return home with those we love the most.

As our wounded nation journeys through this most difficult of year, we recognize the role the game plays when we are hurting the most. From war time to personal struggle, baseball is always there to find refuge. One cannot underestimate the healing power of nine innings.

Perhaps the most important home run ever hit in this town came off the bat of Mets’ Mike Piazza, 10 days after the tragic events of 9/11. His 8th inning, game winning blast brought together a wounded nation, and in its own way, helped us begin to heal.

The game, that day, served its greatest purpose.

Baseball takes its turn at bat again.

We will soon call balls and strikes from our couch, getting  lost in a game played in empty stadiums for a sprint of a season.

The pandemic invites us to prioritize life, and it is here where we find that baseball means much less than it did only seven months ago.

But it sure does feel great to have a game today, to wear some orange and blue, and to believe that there may be a silver lining in this year after all.

Play ball!

 

 

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