Full disclosure, I’ve never been to Opening Day in the Yankee Stadium.
However, I still get that tingly feeling – what Ray Liota described in “Field of Dreams” as an itch of an old amputated limb when the calendar turns even though its been more than 10 years since my last competitive baseball game and more than five years since my last semi-competitive game (I played in a Roy Hobbs-style men’s league after moving to D.C.).
We don’t get this way about the first NHL or NFL game, its really only baseball’s grand opening – despite the destruction of the 12:30 Cincinnati start tradition – that gets America’s juices flowing.
I’ve been privileged to go to the last three openers here in Washington and tomorrow I’ll be fortunate enough to go again.
It’ll be my second presidential opening day (to go with one vice presidential toss) as President Obama is slated to do the honors – 100 years after William Howard Taft threw out the first ceremonial first pitch.
Taft’s first toss was in 1910 – and ironically (not in Michael Kay’s understanding of the word, which is to say coincidental, or Alanis Morissette‘s understanding of it, which is to say a string of lousy things) against Philadelphia and Washington – the Athletics and the Senators of the American League respectively.
The pressure will be on Obama to do better than last time he toed the rubber, where he may or may not have bounced it.
Obama also has to live up to America’s greatest president – at least when it comes to ceremonial pitches – George W. Bush.
Say what you want about his policies and politics (and I’ll keep my opinion to myself, so please do the same in the comments), but Dubya threw gas. And not just old man gas – but from my seats in 2008, it looked like he threw a legitimate strike from the mound.
That pitch opened up Nationals Park (and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman closed that game with a walk off homer, cementing my belief that everyone should win their opener and see something great, though I’m not optimistic about tomorrow), and Dubya has some first pitch experience with the Yankees – famously opening up Game Three of the 2001 World Series.
Even Larry Hockett, Durham Bulls pitching coach c. 1988 knows, a major component of Bush’s legacy is his moundsmanship (5:37 mark, though the whole video is good).
So all the pomp and fanfare, presidential or otherwise, is what makes Opening Day great. What makes it an event unlike almost any other on the sporting calendar.
What makes Opening Day special for you, and what do you think about when the calendar strikes baseball?