Baseball is like the seasons, to paraphrase the first inning of Ken Burns’ Baseball. As the frosty mornings and bitter chill from the previous season fade and the world around us grows greener, baseball blossoms as well. And with it comes hope.
For those of us in the Midwest, the first sunny days in March — even when the mercury only hovers around 50 — lead to bare arms and legs, as if the hope of warmer weather alone will make short sleeves and shorts appropriate dress. And so it is with spring training, as those distant images of young men on ballfields in Arizona or Florida give us hope for what the summer might bring. Eventually, we know, the summer will bring more heat than we appreciate, and that will fade again to autumn’s chill and winter’s freeze; but none of that matters in spring, because the hope is strong.
Nothing is more hopeful than Opening Day. No matter the temperature or the weather, the projections, or the roster: Opening Day is the most hopeful day of the baseball calendar. Every team is tied for first and there are 162 chances ahead for the team to thrill us and disappoint us and surprise us in equal measure.
For those fortunate enough to attend, Opening Day is rivaled only by an All-Star Game or postseason game in its pomp and circumstance. The team rolls out giant flags, lights fireworks, gives away a priceless tchotchke, and puts on a show regardless of what happens on the field. This year in Cleveland promises to be especially memorable, with the team debuting its new nickname and logos and rolling out a red carpet for José Ramírez.
It is 12:00 AM here in the Eastern Time Zone. The calendar has flipped to Thursday, April 7, 2022.— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) April 7, 2022
Today is Opening Day.
We have arrived. Welcome. pic.twitter.com/KrHLW64w3H
For those of us watching at home, Opening Day is a chance to blow off the end of the workday and watch an early game, to share takes across social media, or just let the months of angst go. The Guardians have not made it easy on fans this offseason, but none of that matters on Opening Day. Our worries, concerns, and confusion are no longer valid, because what happens on the field will dictate the narrative going forward — and anything could happen.
The ink on José Ramírez’s contract extension is not dry yet, but he steps to the plate on today as the recipient of the most lucrative deal in franchise history and with a chance to establish himself as the greatest third baseman in franchise history this season (he is <2 fWAR behind Ken Keltner and Al Rosen). Shane Bieber toes the rubber looking to show he has retained his Cy Young stuff and his injury is behind him. Others look to pay off the patience the organization has shown them or prove they belong on the roster.
Everyone has the same chance to improve, impress, or implode on Opening Day and every fan has the same chance to dream on what might happen. Opening Day means hope, and it’s beautiful. Enjoy it, Guardians fans.