There is a sense of sadness over the world Thursday, and not just from the Coronavirus. That’s not to downplay the worldwide pandemic, because nothing at this point in time is more important or worthy of our thoughts and actions. (Stay home!)
But today, Thursday March 26th, was to be Opening Day for baseball, the best unofficial holiday there is. In normal times, it is the day we look forward to the most. It signifies so much more than just the start of a new season – every team has a fresh slate. Every team has a chance. The dreams and wonder of what is yet to come. The anticipation of walk-offs, stolen bases and bat flips. Beating division rivals, monster home runs and that filthy strike out by your closer to end the game.
Sports have taken up such a huge part of our lives that we set our internal calendar by them. Late August and early September are celebrated by the start of football season. Late fall brings hockey and basketball. But nothing is as special as Opening Day in baseball. Timed perfectly with the beginning of Spring, it offers all of the best yet to come.
In times of need, sports have always been there. Indeed they were delayed for awhile after 9/11, deservedly so. But they came back and helped the country heal some, or at the very least, provide a distraction. When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl a few years after Hurricane Katrina, the joy was a culmination of all of the hurt, despair and pain the city had endured, and gave them all something to celebrate.
Now when we need them most, sports are not there for us to consume and disappear into. With what is going on, they absolutely should not be – the safety of everyone is paramount. Across all of sports, athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, and if they were to continue it would only make the situation so much worse.
Major League Baseball has been busy trying to figure out when and if baseball will return this season. At this point, the earliest arrival of baseball to our lives would be early June, after another two weeks of resumed Spring Training. However the more likely scenario at this point seems like it would be July.
When the season would end is also up for debate. Some have a shortened regular season ending in October, with the playoffs going through November. Some have the full season being played, with the World Series being played at Christmas. I personally can’t say I like that scenario. The weather around the country couldn’t possibly support baseball going that late into winter. In that same vein, a neutral site scenario has also been discussed, with the World Series being played in Miami or some other warm weather city.
Whatever happens, to me, the worst part is the uncertainty. I completely understand why MLB cannot at this point say if or when the season will start. But having a definitive day to look forward to might help the situation- an event to look forward to while we are all distancing ourselves from friends, family and work.
Like spring, baseball, and all other sports, will return again. We will talk of the time of quarantine with gratefulness that we survived and came out the other side and hope that we never have to go through that again.
In the meantime, we can re-watch old games, read books about baseball, and daydream of when it will be back in our lives again for real. This too shall pass, even if it’s going to take a whole lot longer than any of us would like. In the meantime, I will leave you with the wonderful story from Tim Brown’s article today in Yahoo Sports, in which Clayton Kershaw describes his favorite Opening Day ever:
In the words of Kershaw, I hope we never have to do this again.