Kahn: The Joys Of Opening Day

By Andrew Kahn

Baseball is back.

That means fans in the Northeast and Midwest dressed like it’s the playoffs; magnetic schedule giveaways; walking around the ballpark to see if there’s a new food stand.

That means more than one kind of bunting; optimism; player introductions, followed by the occasional “Oh yeah, we signed him!” and “Oh yeah, we signed him.”

That means the return of collective booing when an opposing pitcher throws to first one too many times; singing about peanuts and Cracker Jack; first place, if only for a day.

The 2017 version of Opening Day, an unofficial national holiday for our national pastime, is finally in the rear view instead of the horizon. For some, it arrived too quickly. Spring training gives players the opportunity to work off the rust, but what about the stadium crew? At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, a white advertisement scrolling behind home plate caused a visual issue for fielders in Sunday’s opener between the Cardinals and Cubs. It was swapped for a darker panel by Tuesday.

An error by the Cubs’ Javy Baez was supposedly due to the white-on-white snafu, and the defending World Series champs lost their first game of 2017. Long-time fans can shake it off, but what about all the Cubs babies born after the Series? For a game at least, Chicago’s young Wrigleys and Addisons only knew losing.

At least they saw some action. The city’s South Siders were rained out, as the White Sox and Tigers were the only teams that had to wait until Tuesday to play ball. Of course, no matter your team, you likely had baseball snatched from you right after its triumphant return. The sport is cruel like that: You wait through a long, cold winter and after one game, it disappears like a King Felix changeup. Unless your team plays in perpetually beautiful weather (or indoors) you get a game on Opening Day and nothing the next. In a sport where they play dang near every day for six months, this scheduling quirk—to protect ticket holders—is frustrating.

But back to baseball, because baseball is back.

That means Bryce Harper hitting a home run: He’s played in five Opening Day games and gone deep five times. That means overreacting to free agent signings: The Giants spent big in the offseason to fix their bullpen, and new closer Mark Melancon blew a save in the opener; Cleveland signed Edwin Encarnacion and he smacked a critical homer in a Game One win.

Encarnacion’s old team, the Blue Jays, lost to the Orioles on Opening Day in a rematch of last year’s American League wild card game. Unlike in the playoffs—when Baltimore closer Zach Britton infamously never left the bullpen—Britton pitched two scoreless innings Monday.

Yes, Monday. That’s when most teams played their first game of the season. But there were three Sunday. Many fans seem to have forgotten that was the case last season, too. Purists might prefer if every team opened on the same day. Perhaps they also think a pitcher should have to throw four balls to walk a batter, even if it is intentional. That’s no longer the case, and the Cards’ Yadier Molina became the first player to simply be told to walk to first.

It was even less exciting than the original intentional walk. But its occurrence means baseball is back. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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