At this point in the season, it may finally be safe to assume that all Opening Days, save for the home openers of individual teams that may not have happened yet, are finally in the books. Overseas, Sunday nights, the real thing Monday, the Yankees and Astros finally playing a game on Tuesday, and then teams even getting in a second and sometimes third or fourth game as of yesterday. Baseball is back, officially back, standings count, statistics are being accumulated, and so on.
Focusing squarely on the Monday Opening Day, when most teams played their first game and played most of them in the day, there was no shortage of highlights amid the excitement. Neil Walker hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the Pirates a win over the Cubs. Old friend Alex Gonzalez gave his new team, the Tigers, a game-winning hit against the Royals. The Mets game was delayed when they didn’t have a first baseman on the field, so they’re already in mid-season form.
And here, Grady Sizemore, playing in his first Major League game since 2011, hit a home run in what became a 2-1 loss in Baltimore against the Orioles. Where Opening Day is a time to quickly survey the rest of the league, most of Spring Training was focused on the Red Sox, and Sizemore’s phoenix-like comeback had been the focus. Seeing him already playing well in his first real action seemed like a good harbinger for the upcoming season.
Happily, that upcoming season is no longer upcoming, but here. Opening Day (the one where you can first see your team of choice, of course) is fantastic, and a celebration unto itself. But yesterday felt like the first real moment of baseball for 2014. Settling into a table at a bar near my apartment, my girlfriend and I talked and had dinner and drinks, and on the TVs, the Red Sox-Orioles were on half of them and the Bruins-Red Wings on the other.
Last night featured the Red Sox as they hope to be all season long. Namely, Dustin Pedroia had four hits and more than a couple of dazzling plays in the field; David Ortiz hit his first home run; Mike Napoli homered immediately following an intentional walk of Ortiz; A.J. Pierzynski was fooled by a pop fly and picked off of first; and Koji Uehara threw 18 pitches, all but 4 of them strikes, and wouldn’t have had to throw any more than that had it not been for a couple of miscues in the infield.
And it was over. A 6-2 win was in the books, John Lackey looked good and they’ll get ready to do it with Felix Doubront matching up against Wei-Yin Chen. And then tomorrow, the Sox will be back in Boston to get their championship rings and the Orioles move on to Detroit. And repeat, swapping cities for cities, for the next six months.
On some of those nights, I’ll be at home watching. Some nights I’ll be out, and I’ll have to read about it or watch highlights. For a few, I’ll be at the park. Others, I’ll be listening along in the car. And some of those nights, I’ll get to sit in a tavern and relax with a drink with a group of strangers, eye up to five or six flatscreens with the same image, and when appropriate, cheer or groan in unison.
The party’s over, and the bunting will be packed away until October, but the real celebration is in the day-to-day, all those nights in various places and circumstance with the one constant linking the spring to the fall.