I start to get excited as soon as I can see the lights of the stadium. It doesn’t matter which stadium – Wrigley, Comiskey (no, it is not “The Cell”), Busch. I start to get excited as soon as I can see the lights. Approaching the stadium, the excitement builds. People are coming in off the El or crossing the street in hoards. I always buy my peanuts from a guy outside the stadium because it’s usually a buck cheaper.
I love the colors of baseball. Blue, gold, white, and green. These are the colors of baseball for me. Blue sky. Green grass. Golden infield with crisp white lines. I always pause at the first site of the field. Everything is perfect. Nobody has kicked up the batter’s box. Nobody has groomed their own place in the field. The rubber and the bases shine. The scoreboard is big and bright and full of information, but right now there are only zeroes on it.
I love the smell of baseball. Cinnamon is the smell of Comiskey. The churro stand must be nearby. Onions are caramelizing on the grill. Hot dogs are red. The beer is cold. I breathe it in. I don’t bring my glove to games (because I’m a grown man), but I can still smell the leather. I’ve buried my face in my glove enough times to recall the smell – especially at a ballgame. I find my seat, fill out the lineup card and let the sun pour over me. I look at the names on my scorecard and wonder, “Who’s going to hit a home run? Who will get the first hit?”
I love the sounds of baseball. The vendors are hawking their $9 beers. The crowd is a low murmur, ready to explode in an instant. The organ plays tunes that were not meant to be played by pipe organs, but somehow they fit. And then the game starts, and I wait for the greatest sound of them all. Bat on ball. The crowd comes alive. The players move in perfect synchronicity to the place they need to be – covering every possible angle that the ball may travel.
I’ve never been to a game on Opening Day, but I can only imagine the sense of excitement. For those in St. Louis that celebrated just a few months ago, or those in Chicago that have been waiting generations, the excitement of Opening Day is connected directly to hope. Hope springs eternal on Opening Day. The team hasn’t lost a game yet. Everyone’s in first place. Every team has a chance. Every fan knows that on Opening Day, anything can happen.
For those of us that love the game, baseball is the soundtrack of the summer. It will be on the radio and TV. We will check scores from phones, and open up the agate page in the sports. Phrases like “rubber match, games back, get-away day,” will reenter our vocabulary. Every fan hopes that what begins with a cool day in April will end with a cool celebration in October.
The season will be filled with ups and downs. There will be winning streaks and hitting streaks; losing streaks and slumps. There will be lazy fly balls and screaming line drives. There will be thrilling comebacks and heartbreaking losses. Our team will win. Our team will lose, and the summer will move on. Eventually, the season will be over, and we all want it to end with a parade through our city.
Isn’t that what life is all about? When I die, I don’t expect that there will be a parade, but I have assurance to know that there will be a great celebration. Jesus gave us some simple instructions for life, “Follow me,” he said. Follow him in service, compassion, grace, and love. He told us to love ourselves, love our neighbors, and love our God. He told us to break bread with each other, forgive and be forgiven, and be willing to sacrifice for the sake of others.
We go through this season of life and surely there are going to be slumps, bad outings, and losing streaks. Everyone faces the dog-days of summer and the nagging insecurities of a fallen world and a sinful nature. Today though, we have hope. Today can be Opening Day. There are a lot of questions we have to answer. There is potential that we can still unlock. There are stories to be told, and lives that we can touch. There swings to be swung, pitches to be pitched, and games to be won. Today is Opening Day.