DULUTH — We made it. To the end of another winter. Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is today, April 1, as sure a sign of spring as a robin outside the window or as bear-ravaged garbage cans in the alley.
A return to baseball means a return of hope. For warmer, longer, loungier days. For fresh starts. For endless opportunities. Anything is possible again.
This spring, that hope is reflected and is magnified with every needle poking into an arm and every new vaccination against COVID-19, a pandemic that has ravaged our nation for more than a year, not unlike Nelson Cruz or Christian Yelich ravaging a heater out over the plate.
This has been the longest offseason ever, hasn’t it? Thank God it’s over. Or almost over. Another bit of normalcy is being reclaimed.
As scheduling oddities would have it, the Twins and Brewers play each other in today’s opener, in Milwaukee. The Twins home slate won't begin for another week, on April 8 vs. the Seattle Mariners.
So patient Minnesota fans can recall today the words of Yogi Berra, as well known for his quips as his catching for the New York Yankees: “A home opener is always exciting,” Berra said — “no matter if it's home or on the road."
Especially this one. After we were cheated out of a springtime home opener last year. The stupid pandemic pushed baseball’s first pitches to mid-summer. Heck, by then, the walleyes were hitting and many of us were already contemplating the disappointments of Vikings and Packers seasons.
Call today Hooky Day, nearly 145 years after the first Opening Day on April 22, 1876. The Boston Red Stockings nipped the Philadelphia Athletics that day, 6-5. Hooky Day because “Opening Day is a state of mind,” as stated by Walter P. Moore, the Houston-based structural engineering firm with seven big-league ballparks on its resume. “Countless baseball fans (are) known to recognize this unofficial holiday as a good reason to call in sick at work or be truant from school, as most teams typically play their home opener in the afternoon.”
Hall-of-Fame St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and others have even campaigned to make Opening Day an official national holiday.
And why not? Baseball is our bond. Our shared experience. It unites and transcends us. Across generations, backgrounds, politics, and more.
Who’ll ever forget the words of Daniel Stern’s character in the 1991 movie “City Slickers”? “When I was about 18 and my dad and I couldn’t communicate about anything at all, we could still talk about baseball,” he said. “Now that, that was real.”
As real as Opening Day’s premiere pitching matchups. What team wouldn’t send their best hurler out there to start the season off right?
And even as real as baseball food. Actor Humphrey Bogart once said, “A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz." Duluth Huskies General Manager Greg Culver offered a reminder of that quote this week on his social media feeds.
Speaking of baseball quotes, here are just two more:
“You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” — the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio
“Opening day. All you have to do is say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hangover, at least until the game's over.” — Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich
All of that. All true on this one special day each year. And especially true on today’s Opening Day, with the need for hope and possibilities never more urgent than a rising deep drive to left with the game on the line.
This other view is the opinion of the editorial board of our sister publication, the Duluth News Tribune.