Last week, I was reminded of one of my favorite baseball books by one of my co-writers Tim Donner, an excellent writer in his own right. He quoted the legendary sportswriter of the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell, who is also known for many of his best-selling baseball books including one of my favorites, Why Time Begins On Opening Day.
Opening Day… Even now as an adult, I still can’t sleep on the night before Opening Day. I’m just too excited and anxious just as I’ve been ever since I was a kid and first fell in love with the game. The only other thing I can liken it to is trying to sleep on the night before Christmas morning, or on the night before that first date with your childhood sweetheart. It’s emotional. It’s romantic. It’s magical.
I’ve been in and out of so many relationships in my life, but none will ever outlast the one I have with the Mets. Always by my side through good times and bad, the Mets were like a good friend, there to pick me up whenever things were down.
I can still remember those early days of my obsession with the team, never wanting to miss even an inning of all the action. I’d fall asleep with a transistor radio tucked under my pillow just so I could hear the voices of Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson and the ever so charming Bob Murphy whenever the Mets were playing on the West Coast. Back then, it was all heaven to me, and I couldn’t get enough.
Opening Day in particular, has always held a special place in my heart. After a long offseason apart from the game and its intoxicating sounds, along comes Opening Day. It signals the end of another cold winter and the ushering in of blue skies, bright sunshine, green grass, and a revived spirit that’s bursting with optimism.
There’s something enchanting about Opening Day that sets it apart from the other 161 games of the season. Perhaps it’s the symbolic rebirth of something new and exciting. It erases the lingering residue of the previous season – especially if it was a bad season which was often the case with the Mets, but I didn’t care I loved them anyway.
Or maybe it’s like the feeling you get when you see an old friend that you haven’t seen in years… You just want to embrace the moment and remember all the good times of years gone by.
It’s the first pitch. Game on. You’re glued to the action and there’s a smile on your face that nothing can wipe away. You lose all sense of time because the game itself is timeless. We don’t count down the minutes as they do in other sports, instead we take it all in, one inning at a time, three outs at a time, three strikes at a time. There’s nothing else like it.
Me and my father spent many an Opening Day together over the years, some of them at the gone but not forgotten Shea Stadium. And while our personal relationship was often embattled to say the least, now that he’s gone the most cherished memories I have of him were all intertwined with our shared love of the Mets.
I still miss him so much, but luckily, every year on Opening Day we get together again. When I watch the game, I can almost feel him sitting by my side watching and rooting for the Mets with me. And sometimes, I can even hear him screaming and cheering like he did after Gary Carter hit that Opening Day home run back in the day. You know the one…
I crave those memories so much these days, and nothing can bring my dad back to me like Mets baseball can. I can’t explain it, but watching the Mets on Opening Day always invokes such great memories for me and I’m forever grateful for it.
Like most of you, I have my own Opening Day traditions and rituals. Mine are very simple. Nathan’s hot dogs, check… Stewart’s cream soda, check… a box of Cracker Jacks, check… And of course, an old Kodak photo of me and my father at Shea, check… I’ll catch you later, dad.
Enjoy the game everyone, and Let’s Go Mets.