It’s Opening Day. One hundred and sixty-two games of potential lie ahead of us. This is where it all begins.
Between now and October 3, there are 1,458 innings of action, give or take a dozen. We’re going to see amazing things in those innings. We’re going to see Nolan Arenado, finally clad in the Cardinal red, dazzle in the field and thump at the plate. We’re going to see him and Paul Goldschmidt work together on a play that gets an out when we thought no out could be gotten. We’ve seen this superstar from afar, now he’s in our backyard. It’s going to take a while for the novelty to wear off and it’s going to be a fun ride along the way.
We’re going to see Jack Flaherty deal. We’re going to see him strike out batters that seem helpless at the plate. We’re going to see him continue to take on the leadership mantle that Adam Wainwright must eventually set aside. He’s going to lead in different ways but there’s no doubt he’ll make his mark on this team. The Cardinals are not going to go far if he doesn’t.
There are going to be blowouts. There are going to be nailbiters. There are going to be games where Danny Mac gets really worked up and games where the best part of the broadcast may be him and Brad Thompson or Jim Edmonds going back and forth. There’s going to be Mike Shannon in the radio booth for 50 last games, spinning tales and mangling names.
Double plays. Base hits. Wainwright throwing to Yadier Molina for the millionth time (and it still doesn’t get old). There are so many things that are almost guarantees and that’s the part of the beauty of baseball. The familiarity. The comfort. The day to day companion throughout our year.
However, there’s more than just nostalgia that brings us to baseball. There’s also the unexpected.
There’s going to be games this year that are won when all seemed lost…..and lost when all seemed won. There’s going to be walkoff hits that excite us and walkoffs that crush us. The thing is, we don’t know when they are coming. We don’t know who is going to make a huge step and who is going to stumble. We don’t know if Tyler O’Neill is more like his spring version or more like the versions we’ve seen in the past.
There are questions for sure.
Will we see a Rookie of the Year campaign from Dylan Carlson? Can Carlos Martinez recapture his past form? Will the front office, committed by the Arenado trade, be more active at the trade deadline this season if necessary? Will this be remembered as the year we got our first real glimpse of Matthew Liberatore or Nolan Gorman? Can the Cardinals hold off everyone else and take yet another divisional crown? Could a 12th World Series title really be a possibility?
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The season isn’t over with a loss today. The season isn’t a success with a win. Either way, it’s the beginning. The beginning of a long and winding path that hopefully leads to a great destination. While the final outcome is important, the journey is what we are reveling in today.
We’ll take that journey together. This will be the 13th season I’ve done Heroes and Goats for every game. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see the links for The Cardinal Six game that we play every series. We’ll talk about every twist and turn here, there on Twitter, or on either podcast (Meet Me at Musial, Gateway to Baseball Heaven).
Everyone knows the big monologue from Field of Dreams. It’s a wonderful speech, but there are a couple of lines that resonate most with me:
The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.
After this past year, we need this. We need the normalcy that regular baseball brings. We need 7:15 PM starts and “Welcome to Cardinal baseball” every night. We need to be built up again.
It starts this afternoon. 3:10 PM from Cincinnati. Flaherty vs. Luis Castillo.
Welcome back, baseball. We’ve missed you. Come in and stay awhile.