The “Always Home and Uncool” offices will be closed today for its annual rite of spring – Opening Day of baseball season.
(Technically the season opened 8 days ago, but not at the home field for my beloved and, as usual, beleaguered, New York Mets. I’m all about location, people.)
This will mark my 17th Major League home opener: 8 for the Mets, 7 for the Texas Rangers when we were cast out in the bland Dallas suburbs by corporate America, 1 for the Baltimore Orioles in college (Joan Jett sang the National Anthem, the original President Bush tossed out the first pitch then helicoptered the heck out of there because, hey, Charm City is no Kennebunkport, Mumsy) and 1 – bleech – for the Yankees.
I say that not just because the Yankees are the “ic” in America (greed, sense of entitlement, pinstriped business attire in a park setting and – the real kick in pants – $11 beer) but because, hands down, it was the worst time I’ve ever had at a baseball game. Ever.
The year: 1991. Some friends from the newspaper I worked at asked me to the game, which was great because I had never been to the legendary Yankee Stadium and, hey – it was Opening Day!
It was also 38 degrees and damp with a wind that brought what felt like a thousand razor cuts with every gust as we sat with our feet soaking in the puddles in the upper right field deck.
I missed the top half of the first (and a Robin Ventura home run) waiting in line at the concession for nonexistent hot dogs.
Well, they existed before I got there. Specifically five people before I got there.
Yes, the Yankees – this richest, most fabled sports franchise in baseball – if not all sports – ran out of hot dogs.
On Opening Day.
In the FIRST FREAKIN’ INNING.
(To be fair, this was not the glory days of the Steinbrenner Era. Even if you don’t know a baseball from an avocado, this will give you all you need to know: your manager is named “Stump” and though everyone calls your starting left fielder “Bam Bam," his full name is the less than intimidating Hensley Filemon Acasio Meulens.)
In the third inning I waited in line for coffee. That ran out in the previous inning. Meanwhile, I missed the Yanks rally for 4 runs.
I finally gave up on hot food or beverage and opted for beer. I took it back to my seat and, three sips in, accidentally kicked it over. Luckily, the people in front of us didn’t notice because they had come properly dressed for day in blankets and garbage bags.
Today it will be better.
Today the sun is expected to peek out from behind its winter covers over Flushing, Queens, and show us its its unkempt bed head.
Today whatever they use for mercury these days might reach the mid-50s.
Today I’ll hurry the Things out of school early and into the minivan so we can sit in traffic on the Whitestone Bridge.
Today My Love will again try to teach Thing 1 how to keep score and I’ll try to teach Thing 2 that there is more to going to the ballpark than sucking down tortilla chips covered in glowing orange glop. Undoubtedly, I'll fail again but I won’t care until tomorrow morning.
Because today …
Today you'll dig in the closet for your glove and snap a ball into it while sipping your morning coffee.
Today as the toast comes out of the toaster, you'll still remember how to execute a perfect "pop-up" slide.
Today you'll drive to work and admonish yourself to "keep your head down" and your eye on the road.
Today your team will be in first and planning to stay there.
Today you'll end your contract holdout.
Today you'll still be able to turn the double play.
Today you won't lose a business deal in the sun.
Today you'll find yourself rotating your arm around your head to stretch the shoulder and keep it loose.
Today someone asks if you'll be at the meeting and you respond by saying, "Let's play two."
Today you spend an hour in the attic with old baseball cards and dusty Sports Illustrateds.
Today sunflower seeds strangely find their way into your back pocket.
Today you find yourself muttering something about "Bill freakin' Buckner."
Today you'll think of wearing a black suit to match the eye black.
Today you'll have the steal sign.
Today you slip up in a meeting and mention "our sales team ... vs. lefties."
Today a hot dog and peanuts for lunch will sound about right.
Today you tell a co-worker to "warm up."
Today the only strike you'll know about is above the knees and below the armpits.
Today you'll wear your jacket only on your pitching arm.
Today you'll buy two packs of gum and stuff them in the side of your mouth.
Today, during lunch, you'll wonder why Coke doesn't come in a wood can.
Today you'll scratch yourself and spit for no apparent reason.
Today you'll wonder why stirrup socks never caught on.
Today you'll be the rookie looking to make it big.
Today you'll be the wily vet with just a little something left.
Today you'll look for the AM dial on your radio.
Today your glove is hanging off the handlebars of your bike.
Today seems like a good day for an ice cream before you head home.
Today is box scores and "Baseball Tonight."
Today is Donnie Sadler and Keith Osik.
Today is Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
Today your first coach is cheering. Still.
Today mom's watching.
Today dad's in the backyard -- with his glove.
Today it'll still be a kids' game.
Today you'll be a kid.
Today is Opening Day.
Poem: “Today” -- By Greg Shea, Copyright © 2000 The Closer
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BTW, if you like talkin’ baseball (or just listening to two guys babble in-depth about it), check out “Just Talking to the Cornfield” with my pal B.E. Earl on Sunday night. Sybil Law will be there with booze and gratuitous Dave Grohl photos.
Now, PLAY BALL!