New life. Rebirth. Hope. By whatever name, the coming of spring and, especially Opening Day in baseball, is a resurrection experience. Maybe more so for those who live in northern climates. Coming from Minnesota, this was especially true for me. Minnesota winters are famous; famously cold, icy, often long and frequently snowy (although, there are times when it’s too cold to snow…believe it). Walking into blowing snow on a sub-zero day, a day colder than most people’s freezers, tiny shards of glass raking across your numb cheeks, layers of clothing barely staving off instant death from exposure, it’s hard to imagine anything as beautiful as green grass and the sound of a bat-cracked baseball smacking into a soft leather glove.
Then it happens. Like the tiny crocus pushing its purple head through the grainy snow to say hello, spring comes. And with it, baseball. Target Field in downtown Minneapolis has electric heaters in the sod to keep the grass alive. It also serves the added purpose of melting snow that should happen to show up. This may sound superfluous, however, one year in the early part of the season, it actually snowed so hard (thankfully, briefly) that they had to pause the game. Yep, a snow delay. Fans walking up to the field may encounter snirt, a combination of dirt and snow that has melted and frozen lots of times, holding lost mittens, bits of paper, and hundreds of cigarette butts in a nasty little bump of ice. The foliage around the city is still brown and dull. But inside, it’s a different story.
Seeing green grass for the first time, after suffering for so long against the elements in a season designed to kill you, can cause grown men to burst into tears. Couples fall in love all over again. People see God. Christian pastors, if they wanted to capitalize on this phenomenon, could set up shop and make hay. A thousand conversions would be likely. We have baseball to thank.
Now I live in the South. It’s not nearly so cold. However, winter still has a way of being a pest. Here, it’s rainy. A lot. More rain than most temperate rain forests. It’s so wet, so often, that mold grows everywhere, there’s more moss on the hillside than grass and it’s not really possible to send kids outside to play unless doing something in muddy water is the focus. So, still pretty miserable, if you ask me. Maybe not as deadly, but still a downer. But, we have baseball!
My Opening Day tickets arrived in the mail the other day. I was almost shaking when I opened the envelop. Actual tickets. The glossy surface. The bright colors. The fun way seats are ordered: Section 105, Row G, seats 5 and 6…just down the third base line. There is a special barbeque and T-shirt for those of us who purchased these tickets; a way of saying thank you for supporting the team. It’s not long now. I have the tickets on a bookcase in my bedroom. I see them as I enter the room. A talisman fending off evil spirits, they guard my sleeping and welcome my awaking.
Okay, okay, that’s over the top. But, really, Opening Day portends a summer of wonderful times. Those warm, sultry nights where the crowd adds its muted buzz to the chorus of peepers and frogs are just ahead. The fireworks thrilling grandchildren are marked on our calendars. Bright sunlit days where we whine about the heat, more welcome in January than July, will add seasonal variety in due course. That’s just the way it is with baseball. No matter the season, no matter where we live, Opening Day heralds life. New life. Rebirth. Hope.