Why I Love Opening Day

Baseball is here again and I couldn’t be more excited for the 2011 season! In honor of my favorite player, Albert Pujols, here are 5 reasons I can’t wait for the first pitch:

Spring is Here!
Even if you don’t consider yourself a die-hard fan of baseball; whether your team is good, or like the Pirates and Cubs, is saying ‘maybe next year‘ from day one, Opening Day is about so much more than bats and balls.  After what often seems like an endless winter in much of the U.S., baseball’s first pitch means Spring is finally upon us and Summer is on the way.  Get ready for barbeques, trips to the beach, long boarding, and of course, baseball just about every day until November!

My Wife Watches
My wife doesn’t care about sports. In fact, she may have a slight level of abhorrence for games which distract her strikingly handsome, loving husband from spending any time with her.  BUT, there are a few games in each season to which she will pay attention.  They typically include the World Series, All-Star game and, that’s right, Opening Day.  In fact, this year she even blogged about it.

My Teams Got Better
Yes, teams.  As in two favorites.  Last year, neither made the playoffs but they both look to be back on track and serious contenders.  In the American League, the Chicago White Sox are my team.  They improved tremendously this Winter by adding lefty slugger, Adam Dunn, and pitcher Jesse Crain, as well as re-signing Paul Konerko.  Combine that with the offseason rehab Jake Peavy has completed ahead of expectations, and promising young pitcher, Chris Sale being around for his first full season, bolstering an already deep group of pitchers, this year’s south-siders look to have assembled the best team since the World Series-winning ’05 team.

In the National League, my Cardinals look ready to get back to the playoffs and do some damage as well.  By adding former divisional rivals, Lance Berkman and Ryan Theriot, the Cards are taking what could be Albert Pujols’ last season in the uniform seriously.

Albert Pujols as a Cardinal
Speaking of “el Hombre” as he’s affectionately called in St. Louis (so as not to confuse him with Cardinal hall-of-famer Stan “the Man” Musial), this could very well be his last season with the redbirds as he goes into his last season before free agency.  The club would obviously like to keep him around for the rest of his career.  But as he may very well be the best player of all time, he is asking for the most money per-year of all time.  The Cardinals are a smaller-market franchise and they may not be able to pay him, without seriously crippling the organization in the long run.   Though I see both sides of the equation – the team’s business needs, and Pujols making the most of his last big contract – it really is a sad story, to this point.  I seriously hope the two parties can come together on something that is a win for everyone by the end of the season.

Meanwhile, what could be Albert’s last season with St. Louis should be an exciting one, due in large part to the aforementioned acquisitions, along with perennial Cardinal All-Stars Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina.

Opening Day Highlights
Sure, it’s only one of 162 games, but last year’s numero uno proved to be one of the most exciting.  Pujols blasted two homers on opening day 2010, while Mark Buehrle made the defensive play by which ESPN’s Baseball Tonight would measure all others for the rest of the season:

Get your peanuts and hot dogs, folks; it’s time to play ball!

I enjoy the game because it’s a beautifully-designed game; it’s a beautiful game to watch. But principally because it makes me feel American. It makes me feel connected with this culture. And I think there are only three things that America will be known for two thousand years from now when they study this civilization: the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully-designed things this culture has ever produced.

––Gerald Early

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