Another Opening Day

This will be one of what will probably be a smattering of baseball-related posts over the coming months. Since today is Opening Day in all but two of the 30 Major League Baseball cities, I thought I’d get this up today, rather than my usual Tuesday posting day.

I recognize that spring and baseball are still synonymous for many. In New England, the Red Sox just might be able to push the Patriots from the epicenter of sports fans’ attention for a few months, although in these football-saturated times, it seems that pigskin prognostication or the draft, or Darrelle Reevis leaving town (or some other NFL-related story) is forever talked about on stations like WEEI and among the sports talking heads in The Hub.

Two teams (the Cards and Cubs) actually initiated the start of the 2015 baseball season on Sunday Night Baseball for television, but for all intents and purposes, I’m calling Monday the true Opening Day for the rest of the MLB. Thus begins another, too-long, 162-game schedule that will eventually lead to the crowning of a World Series champion—that won’t be ‘til mid-October, however, when if it is played in New England, with games starting after 8:30 at night, we’ll again see players in ski masks and huddled around dugout heaters, as the games get played in sub-40 degree temperatures yet again, just like April baseball.

Between now and then, there’s an awful lot of baseball to be played, and the well-compensated participants will grind through yet another campaign. Average salaries for baseball players are likely to top $4 million per year.  For comparison purposes, the average U.S. wage in 2012 (the most recent year available) was $42,498, according to the Social Security Administration.

Attempting to keep interest from waning in as many cities as possible among the clubs that make up the ranks of the MLB, league officials and the owners have continued to expand the playoff field in order to ensure that fans continue showing up and paying ever-higher ticket prices, especially in places like Cleveland, Houston, San Diego, and maybe even Chicago (north and south sides), where playoff baseball has been a rarity. There’s no guarantee Boston will make the post-season this year, so New Englanders may have to find other pursuits, although the diluted playoff pool should keep the possibility of a Wild Card slot open long enough to keep the chattering masses on task, and fans glued to NESN, watching games and dumping more cash into John Henry’s expansive coffers.

When our son Mark was still actively participating in the game, especially during his college years at Wheaton, baseball interest ratcheted up in our house in early March, with a trip to the Sunshine State, and then the short, but intense  New England small college season that ran from March into early May. Those were fun years, with frequent trips all over Massachusetts and Connecticut (mainly) to watch the Lyons play (and usually win). Even Mary had the baseball bug during those years.

Living in the northern reaches of our region, baseball always began as a cold weather sport, and playing in 35 or 40 degree weather wasn’t abnormal for most of April, and even into May, sometimes. This year, the snow pack may keep local high school and college teams off the fields of Maine and even New Hampshire a bit longer, although the snow has been melting the past few weeks.

I’ll be umpiring again this year. My first games are next Saturday, weather permitting.

I no longer follow the professional game with the gusto that I used to. I’m not sure why that is. I could take a high-minded position and say it’s because “money has ruined the game for me,” but I watch the NBA and in particular, the Celtics, with devotion. Players in the Association are equally well-compensated for their sport, and the ability to put the ball in the hoop.

Does 40-year-old, David Ortiz, still have another productive season left?

Does 40-year-old, David Ortiz, still have another productive season left?

The box scores on during the summer will be difficult for me not to be tempted to check out. But honestly, I no longer care about whether the Red Sox win 70 games this summer, or end up winning 90-95 and make the playoffs. I doubt that I’ll be attending a game at Fenway Park, either. It’s too expensive, and I don’t care enough about the club to warrant the cost of a ticket, parking, and all the other ancillary items that go with professional baseball games. I did just make my annual pilgrimage to the TD Garden, a week ago Sunday, to see the Celtics.

There are still memories that I hold onto around baseball, however.

My freshman year, making the varsity and being the starting catcher for the Lisbon Greyhounds, up at Telstar High School, on a brutally cold April afternoon. I had to face hard-throwing Bobby Seames (who would be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates upon graduation). I’m guessing I took an oh-fer at the plate. I do remember throwing out two attempted steals of second base. I could really throw the ball, and it wasn’t long before my high school coach, George Ferguson, converted me to pitching, full-time. I’d have a decent run on the mound throughout high school and even into college, before an arm injury derailed what I had hoped would be something more magnificent.

An Opening Day from long ago.

An Opening Day from long ago.

When I was in grade school, it seemed like Opening Day was something that made you want to run home from school and flick the ball game on as soon as you got home, to see what the score was. I wonder if grade schoolers care as much about baseball as me and my friends did, back in the day? Or is baseball’s pastoral pace too slow for the youth of America, acclimated to video games and other digital stimulation?

Perhaps Google’s ruined baseball for them, like everything else that can’t be carried out via screens. This article indicates that the rumors about baseball’s demise might be premature.

However, there are chinks in baseball’s armor, as kids don’t find baseball as appealing as my friends and I did, playing it from dawn to dusk when we were growing up, as this article reveals.

That was no surprise, right?

8 thoughts on “Another Opening Day

  1. Alas, who can sit through a three-hour MLB game when a nine-inning high school or college game takes an hour and a half? The actual play, the grace of players on the field, is as beautiful as ever. But the endless delays, endless commercials, endless game is losing fans, still, and they are not endless.

    Opening day. Inextricably tied with spring, with grass turning green and the temperature rising, lucky classmates going to Fenway for the opening day. That simple joy MLB can’t take away.

  2. @LP The game itself is timeless. Unfortunately, the hustlers care not for that quality, only that they can sell wall advertisements, naming rights, and pretty much every aspect of the game is marketing, with corporate logos attached.

    @JAB Loved this photo. It was hanging on the wall in the basement. Notice the cars and yes, the styles of hair and dress. I think this was 1972, and the field was out back of Lisbon Elementary School, which is where adult education is these days, I think.

  3. Jim,
    Nice. It connects a whole bunch of vantage points within “opening” focus,

  4. Baseball has changed over my lifetime. I attended my first Red Sox game in 1946. I was 8 years old. They lost to the Cardinals in the World Series that year.

    Going to a Red Sox game these days is more about the experience than the game on the field, even though Fenway still has a timeless feel compared to some other places I’ve seen games over the years.

    I was just telling a friend about your baseball book the other day. Told him it’s one of my favorite books on baseball.

    Glad to see you’re still writing.

  5. @Bryant The opening of another baseball season is always a time when I reflect back, and also, take a look ahead. There is a sense, no matter what the prognosticators say that the future is bright for your favorite team. Red Sox Nation was giddy after their Opening Day beat down, with five home runs. Last night’s loss by their new, $80 million dollar man, Rick Porcello, will find the trolls ready to attack. And so it goes in New England!

    @Steve What a pleasant surprise. Yes, still at the writing. Thanks for sharing your own memories of seasons past. I’m guessing that “back in the day,” Red Sox tickets (especially during the 1950s and 1960s) weren’t the hot (and expensive) commodities that they’ve become these days.

    Appreciate your endorsement of When Towns Had Teams. It was a fun book to do and it still continues to sell, too.

  6. Steve will be at Fenway for the home opener on Monday. How exciting…for him. I generally don’t believe in boredom. There are too many things to do to ever be bored – unless I’m sitting at a Red Sox game. Itch and scratch. Wipe nose. Spit. Nod. Kick the dirt. Spit again. Nod. Hey look! The wave! Something to do for 2.3 seconds.

    It feels wrong to not love baseball. I grew up with Dad yelling at the television or radio, or sometimes both at once, and cheering when Yastrzemski tagged the runner at first (see? I know a little bit.). Gimme a field of five year olds playing t-ball and I’m all over it but I’m a failure as a baseball fan.

  7. @Robin Opening Days get a lot of hoopla, but in New England, they’re usually damn cold. Actually, Monday looks like it will be in the 60s for the Sox home opener.

    I went to Fenway once for a home opener, with my Dad. We sat in the right field grandstand and froze. It was April 11, 2000 and Carl Everitt hit a home run.

    My uncle always used to say, “you don’t have baseball weather in Maine until June.” That’s pretty much true.

    Yaz was a Red Sox icon. Too bad he never got to win a World Series during his career.

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