Opening Day

I’ve only attended a Major League Baseball opening day once. April 4, 1994, at historic Fenway Park. I remember it well not only because it marked my sole time taking in a season’s start in-person, but also because of how easily it happened.

The night before, an Emerson College classmate drunkenly suggested we try to grab bleacher seats for the game. At the time—mid-Curse, before Fenway’s renovations and Boston’s emergence as a perennial pennant contender—it was relatively easy to score tickets from scalpers in Kenmore Square for a reasonable price. It didn’t take much to convince me.

But the next day, my buddy bailed, hungover or still drinking. I remember it being cold and overcast. I recall not being able to convince my roommate and a few others to rally, the dreary weather (and Red Sox roster) not exactly helping my cause. Undeterred and with maybe $20 in my pocket, I took the short walk from my dorm to Kenmore to at least check out the game-day scene.

Moments later I scored a bleacher seat for $10.

At 1:35 p.m., with a hot dog and soda in hand, I watched Roger Clemens deliver a fastball to Tony Phillips. On the field that day: Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, Cecil Fielder, Kirk Gibson, Eric Davis (!?), Mike Greenwell, Andre Dawson (!?!) and Mo Vaughn. The Red Sox won, 9-8, the beginning of a lackluster 54-61 campaign.

Wait. 54-61?

That season ended abruptly in August, with no postseason and, for the first time since 1904, no World Series. The collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players expired and, with no progress during negotiations, a work stoppage commenced. In all, 948 games were canceled.

To be honest, I don’t remember all that within the context of my first Opening Day. In my mind, they are two separate things, completely disconnected, one sepia-toned positive and the other conveniently compartmentalized, despite being a few months apart.

I mention this now because I feel the same way about April 7, 2022. Today, Major League Baseball kicks off another campaign. I plan to watch as many games as possible. I will root on my Washington Nationals, stupidly believing they’ll be sneaky good amid a rebuild. Each rookie I’ve followed since Rookie Ball will thrive. Every veteran hoping to bounce back into form will find that fountain of youth. My fantasy lineup is set.

Never mind that a few weeks ago, all of this seemed impossible. Then, baseball was a mess. The owners as greedy as ever. The players overmatched in a broken system. Rob Manfred doing everything to anger fans.

But now? The most recent lockout and icy labor negotiations are another story, part of a different timeline.

Today, we revel in the game-day scene. Today, we play some ball.

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