The smell of cut grass and hot dogs and mustard. The sound of leather on polished wood. The taste of cheap beer drunk from plastic cups. Bunting hung from the eaves and a marching band and jets flying in formation. The sound of laughter and conversation and cheers. The anticipation of summer and the possibility of greatness.

It’s Opening Day, the true first day of spring. A national holiday (or at least it should be) and it is the start of something unique.

Baseball is a very particular kind of sport. Because of its long season it becomes part of the scenery. It’s not played in the summer; it is part of the summer. Baseball is every much a part of summer as sunshine and barbecues and trips to the beach. You don’t just go to a game, you spent time there. It’s casual, unhurried and comfortable. It is a sport that molds itself to your particular vision of it.

I have friends that are obsessive about stats and hang on every pitch; they live and breathe by every swing of the bat. I know others who see the game as a backdrop, a reason to sit in the sun and have conversations with friends and friendly strangers. I guess I fall somewhere in between the two. And, contrary to some purists out there, there in no right way to enjoy a baseball game. It becomes what you make it. It belongs to you. But what is it really?

It is the game, the rules, the players, the sunshine, the grass, the candy, the ice cream, the screams, the moans, the muffled conversation, the children with catchers mitts, the old men with score cards, the hot dogs, the beer, the crack of the bat, the dust from a slide, the wave, the chatter, the stats, the score, the reaching for a foul ball, the speed of the pitch, the lights, the summer.

Baseball is our game. Today it comes back. Play ball.

Originally published Mar 31, 2014