Two weeks from today, the announcer’s call to “Play ball!” will be heard in major league baseball cities across the country.
In Detroit, March 31 is Opening Day. Capital “O,” capital “D.”
Opening Day. All you have to do is say the words and you can feel the sun on your face, the crisp air in your nose and the possibilities in your heart. In baseball, no other day is so full of promise. Every team has designs for the playoffs. Every player is the next MVP. And every fan will one-hand catch a home run ball.
This is a day that has always been a holiday in my heart. But now there is a chance to make it official, and have it declared a national holiday. It’s why I signed this petition, and you should too. Since Skidmore moved downtown, we’ve closed our doors at noon on the day our beloved Detroit Tigers begin the season. We get outside and let the sounds and sights of celebration pour over us. We all raise a beer and a dog to the sky and thank the baseball gods. It’s a creative renewal for the most creative souls in Detroit.
If you know me, you know how much I love baseball. While my ability to hit a ball was permanently thwarted at age 14 by a curve ball that didn’t curve, my broken nose didn’t dampen my passion for the game. Baseball is a link between my dad and my kids. From the first game I attended at Tiger Stadium as a seven-year-old in 1970 to the first time I took my sons there in 1996. Baseball is the memories and the stories. It’s the smell of fresh-cut grass and roasting peanuts and the strange joy of filling in the new season’s first scorecard. It’s series-clinching playoff games, a home run ball that landed me on ESPN and the Tigers in the 2006 World Series.
Here in Detroit, more than anywhere else, this day is an opportunity for symbolic rebirth. It’s our adult version of Christmas morning, when we wake up without an alarm and jump out of bed with a big bounce. It’s the dawning of spring, a time to have hope, and a time to dream of championships. On the drive to the stadium it’s a chance to reflect. To remember Sparky, Ernie, Willie, Mickey, Sweet Lou and the ’84 Tigers. It’s the amazing way the ’68 team helped heal a city. Those are the memories that Opening Day can bring, memories that will only get sweeter when Opening Day is a holiday.
I have a problem with artificial turf, the designated hitter and instant replays – but I have no problem closing Skidmore down for a day to let our people play.
Baseball is America’s national pastime. As George Will wrote, “Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” Opening Day deserves to be a national holiday.
Center Field for the 1974 Anchor Bay Little League All Star Team