ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Manager Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals participates in the World Series victory parade for the franchise's 11th championship on October 30, 2011 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Szczepanski/Getty Images)
In just a handful of hours now the baseball season will begin. The Cardinals will play the newest kids on the block, the Miami Marlins, and there will be a real game of baseball. It will be, in some small way, the best moment any of us will have this year. Maybe not the only best moment we'll have, but the best moment all the same.
The event of Opening Day is always special, but the sport of baseball doesn't lend itself to special occasions quite the same way some of the others do. When the first game of the season is over and in the books, we all know there will 161 more just like it (at least), and only the most devoted hyperbolic could ever worry too much over one game. That's not to say we won't; it just means we're all devoted hyperbolics who gather on an internet site 365 days a year to discuss a game. And that's actually pretty cool.
I've said before I always think of baseball differently from most of the other sports; that I think of baseball as a companion and a friend more than an event. A baseball game holds the same expected pleasure as meeting your oldest friend for a drink after work. It's not unusual, and it probably won't be life-changing. And yet it's that very quality, that expectedness and smallness, that works its way into your life and makes this game a part of you. Familiarity only breeds contempt when there's no love to keep it special.
The small moments are always the best; it's why baseball is the sport most like life. A great marriage isn't a beautiful, elegant, and oh-so expensive wedding; a great marriage is heating up a can of soup for dinner on a Thursday night and enjoying it because you have someone special to share it with. For six months of the year there's always a baseball game on the radio in the car, or on the television while you're eating that can of soup. Good times and bad. You can always find a game.
My personal life is a mess right now, as it usually seems to be; I'm beginning to think I'm just one of those people who's never going to quite get it right. Even so, I'll be watching the Cardinals play tonight, and I will enjoy it. I will have a beer (maybe a couple), and I will eat a large soft pretzel because large soft pretzels are even better at home than at the ballpark. I will sit on my sofa and watch the Cardinals play 0.61% of their season, and I will live and die with every pitch. And then when it's over I will remember it was 0.61% of the season and smile a little. And then I will do it all over again for the remaining 99.39%. Life and baseball will both go on.
Hello, baseball. Hello, old friend. It's good to see you again. I missed you.