April 5, 2012 – It was a Sunday afternoon in 1972, and my family was visiting Veterans Stadium for the first time. The Phillies were terrible that year, finishing in last place in the National League East with a 59-97 record. But it didn’t matter because Steve Carlton was on the mound that day, and we knew we would win. That’s the moment my love of baseball began.
Sure, I grew up listening to baseball games on the porch with my family on summer nights, and watching games on television on Sunday afternoons, but it didn’t really sink in until I saw my first game live and in person. I remember thinking that we were the luckiest people in the world to have Veterans Stadium for our very own.
After that first game, a tradition began that I will always look upon fondly. We became frequent visitors of Veterans Stadium, and began creating plenty of memories. I’ll never forget, for example, my mother climbing the fence to sneak down from the cheap 50 cent seats in the upper deck to the better seats below, and all of us running from the security guards giggling hysterically. Or my mother’s best friend (and our neighbor) sitting in the stands with a hotdog box on her head to keep away the rain.
Today we celebrate America’s pastime, when professional players take to the diamonds across the country to kick off the season with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves. For the Phillies that normally includes a visit by Pennsylvania National and Air Guard who drop in to deliver the first ball.
If you’re a baseball fan, today is probably one of your favorite days. I know it’s one of mine, and I start looking forward to it as soon as the last out is made in October. After a long winter, the tradition of Opening Day in Major League Baseball signifies that the warm weather is ahead, and that for the next six months, we’ll have baseball to rely on.
Opening Day is perhaps the only day during the season when anything seems possible for your favorite team, regardless of what they did or didn’t do in the off-season. They start the season with a clean record, tied with everyone else in their division, and on top. Many of us are snapped back into reality pretty quickly once the season gets underway, but for that first day it’s magical.
The Phillies open their season on the road this year in Pittsburgh. After a weekend series with the Pirates, they come home to open Citizens Bank Park officially on Monday against the Miami Marlins, a team expected to be a major contender for the division crown. This is the stuff that makes good drama because anything can happen.
Play ball! And go Phils!!