Column: Baseball is game for all


With the first pitch on Opening Day, there was, as there is every year, a collective feeling of optimism for thousands of baseball fans throughout America. For every team in Major League Baseball (MLB) – and every fan of that team – there’s a feeling of, “This could be the year.”

For all 30 teams, it was a new start. And much like the first day of elementary school, when backpacks were packed with new notebooks and lunchboxes with chocolate pudding and bologna sandwiches, it was an event that filled stomachs with the butterflies of uncertainty.

On Monday afternoon, those butterflies were in full effect, with the official beginning to the 2008 MLB season.

A week earlier, there had been a two-game regular-season series in Japan between the Red Sox and the Athletics, and the Washington Nationals hosted a game to christen their new ballpark on Sunday night, but Monday’s full slate of games was the true “Opening Day.”

The beginning of the MLB season is not just the start to a rigorous 162-game schedule, it’s the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster for fans everywhere – fans cheer loudly during the winning streaks, quiet down when their team falls in the standings, all the while keeping an eye on the playoff race.

Unlike almost any other sport in the U.S., MLB provides a feeling of closeness to a team, and fans show an enthusiasm for their team that isn’t seen this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps it’s the long season, giving fans numerous chances to see their favorite team play, or maybe the numerous historic teams, but whatever the case, baseball is America’s sport.

And therein lies the true beauty of opening day, and the beauty of baseball.

No other sport is so rooted in heritage and history. A history not only archived in the history books, but also passed on from family members though the generations, making baseball truly a family affair.

As I watched the opening day games and listened to interviews of fans at the stadiums, I witnessed fathers and sons – clearly playing hooky from work and school – in the stands, as well as brothers and sisters coming from miles apart to be together.

Favorite teams are passed down from generation to generation, fathers pass along old baseball cards and old baseball hats to sons and daughters and grandfathers pass along the statistics and stories of players from long ago to grandsons and granddaughters. And on the first day of each baseball season, the stories begin again.

Younger generations gather stories and highlights in their memory banks to pass along to later generations and the older generations tell the stories of past openers.

For Chicago Cub fans, Opening Day brings with it a clean slate – a feeling that the Cubbies can finally get over the 100-year World Series drought.

For Milwaukee Brewers fans, the beginning of the season showcases the talented youth that fill the roster, and brings about the question, will this be the year the Brewers break their bleak 25-year playoff drought?

For Detroit Tigers fans, of which I am one, Opening Day brought a bit of early excitement. With the Tigers losing their opening day game 5-4, in 11 dramatic innings, every possible positive and negative story came to the forefront. Will the pitching hold up? Will third-baseman Miguel Cabrera become the amazing athlete we all expect? Is Jim Leyland really an angel from above, but with a rough appearance?

For all of MLB, Opening Day brings excitement – for the upcoming season, the team and the fans.

For me, it’s only a matter of time until my conversations are starting with “Who’s your Tiger?”