Monday, April 3, 2017

Baseball's Annual Opening Day Panic

Professional athletes -- baseball players, in particular -- are known for having very specific and downright odd pre-game rituals. Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, for example, always ate chicken. Contrarily, he wasn’t particular about whether it was cooked by his wife or mistress.

Fans have their rituals, too. Here’s what has happened in the past 24 hours, just as it has for the past decade, leading up to my family’s annual excursion to see today's New York Mets home opener:

I check the weather forecast. Dig out ski wear I put away a month ago.

Conduct search for the tickets I purchased three months ago. Concurrently have first panic attack of the new season. 

Find tickets pinned to the bulletin board next to my wife’s computer, the same place I put them every year. Put them in my ski pants.

Check forecast again. Move tickets into my rain jacket. Look into renting hip waders.

Ready tailgating supplies. Put together teeny camping grill I bought at drugstore in 1999, and have only ever used on Opening Days. Show amazement at how indestructible it is despite all its rust.

Tell daughter not to take her iron pill tomorrow.

Check forecast again. Look through closet for pair of shorts I can still fit into.

Ask family if anyone has seen my transistor radio.

Answer my kids’ questions about what a transistor and a radio are.

Argue with wife about what time to leave for a 1:10 p.m. game. She says 6 a.m. is too early. I remind her of the year she left at the time of her choosing, and arrived in the fifth inning. We compromise on 9:30 a.m.

Check forecast again. Second panic attack ensues when I can’t remember if the last time I looked at the weather made me move the tickets to my Bermudas or my scuba suit.

Don’t sleep all night.

Turn on morning news for weather forecast. Contemplate aloud whether it would be more efficient next year to just rent a meteorologist.

Check traffic report. Curse Connecticut leaders for decades of empty promises about ferry service to New York City.

Leave message at kids’ schools about them being absent. Have third panic attack when I can’t remember whether last year I used the same name for their imaginary dead relative.

Load family, cooler, grill, four changes of clothes into minivan.

Head out of the driveway as wife starts with the questions:
  • Got the tickets? Yes – I put them in glove compartment last night along with sunscreen and hand warmers.
  • Got your wallet? Sitting on it!
  • Did you close the garage door? Of course, I closed the garage door. I close it every time I drive out. I’ve closed it a million times before. It’s an automatic, dear, why wouldn’t I have closed this one time?
Slam on brakes, throw it into reverse, and be back at the top of the driveway in 20 seconds staring at a closed garage door.

Hit the gas and go off to the ballpark. 

For one afternoon -- where no matter how bleak the sky or low the mercury or weak the lineup -- it always ends up being beautiful and warm and full of hope for magic and miracles.  
-- A version of this was first ignored by the readers of The (Stamford) Advocate.


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


  1. Some funny stuff here. You are neurotic about the weather.
    Despite the craziness, it sounds like a nice family tradition.

    1. It's a trait I inherited from my mom. Thanks for reading, Larry.


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