Monday

4-6-09: Opening Day!

Hello again everybody...

Yes, yes it's Monday. And that's normally not such a good thing. But today I'm giddy as a schoolgirl because baseball's here for real. Sure, the season technically started last night, but I didn't get to watch any of that game, so for me? Today's the true start.

So today's column is my ode to Opening Day. Why I love it, blemishes and all. Oh, and in the interest of getting back to watching the games, today's column may not be that long. I'm sure you won't mind!

Let's play ball!

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
- Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962), Danish physicist


I took a look at lots of predictions over the weekend. Surprisingly enough, I usually agreed with 4-6 out of the 8 playoff teams. I like that average! So either we're all going to be pretty correct, or we're all going to be massively wrong. Either way, I'm not alone! And that makes me feel good.

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What else makes me feel good? OPENING DAY!!!

That's right, today marks the beginning of the 2009 baseball campaign. As I write this, I've got Cleveland/Texas on one TV and NY Mets/Cincinnati on the other TV. What can I say? It's blissful.

Plenty of other writers have talked about baseball as a 7-month companion. It's there every day. As Nuke LaLoosh famously put it, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains." If it's raining in your town and there's no game, then it's sunny somewhere else and you can follow that game.

(Aside: yes, it helps a ton in this regard to have the MLB Extra Innings - which I just ordered yesterday and which is available via free trial all week - but there are plenty of free ways to check out other media (radio, Internet, etc.) and follow out of town games!)

The point is, baseball's there day-in and day-out. And that's what makes today so special to me. It's the start of a journey that will take us into early November. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, then the journey of 162 games plus the playoffs begins with today's slate of games.

It's true that the games played today count exactly the same as those played in July and exactly the same as those played in September. But since today's games are the first we've seen since Philadelphia's celebration last November, they have a little extra pomp and circumstance to them. Teams break out the bunting, they do full-squad introductions, and at the Metrodome tonight, the players will salute the fans and fire game balls up into the stands as souvenirs.

Plus, there are a ton of day games. Starting in the mid-20th century, baseball owners realized that they could increase their ticket revenue exponentially if they played the bulk of their games at night.

(Aside: shouldn't that have been obvious? Were substantially more people working at night back in the early 20th century? Why did it take so long for the owners to connect "holding games while people aren't working" with "more people buying tickets"?)

And since then, day games have become more rare than a Sham-Wow commercial since Vince got busted for getting beaten up by a hooker. Fox has put in it's contract with MLB that their Saturday game is the only game that can be shown on TV Saturday afternoons, so few teams have day games Saturdays. That pretty much leaves Sundays and the random getaway day on a Wednesday or Thursday.

So why do I lament the lack of day games? There's just something about sitting in the sun (well not me - I've got that Irish gene that takes me from zero to sunburn in record time), wearing sunglasses, smelling the fresh-cut grass and seeing players decked out in eye-black. Baseball was a game invented to be played during the day. Think about your childhood. Were you playing pick-up games at night? It's just better under the sun. Period.

Today a full 6 games start before 6pm. And that would've been 8 had Boston and Chicago not had weather difficulties. True, weather is really the reason you see so many day games early in the season. Teams want to take advantage of the warmer day temperatures, and who can blame them. Yes, die-hards like me will throw on a parka, wrap up in a blanket and go watch a game in 20-degree weather. But far more folks will go sit in the sun and enjoy baseball in 30-40 degree weather.

Whatever the impetus, more day baseball is a good thing!

One last thing...

A lot of people scream about the April schedule. Why are the Dodgers and Padres playing each other when both could host a cold-weather team? Why are Boston (whom I hate) and Tampa opening in Boston when Tampa plays in a domed stadium?

On the surface these complaints make a lot of sense. But baseball schedules have to go a lot deeper than just April. There are something like 2430 games played during an MLB regular season. Each of the 30 teams submits requests for certain dates each year. And then they have to factor in the rules and regulations for travel time negotiated in the CBA. All of that sits squarely on the plate of schedule makers. So if there are a few games that don't make sense weather-wise in April each year? We can live with it.

Opening Day is a wonderful thing. I hope you have a chance to enjoy it as much as I do!

That's all for today folks. I've got games to watch! Remember, Francisco Liriano opens things up for the Twins tonight against Felix Hernandez. Should be a doozy!

I'll be back on Wednesday with more (probably baseball related) for you!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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