Smell the Dirt
"Opening Day isn't just any day. It's... it's... it's the Day of Days!"
--Harold Reynolds (2004)
--Harold Reynolds (2004)
You gotta wake up and smell the dirt. Toss the ball and catch it a few times. Stroke the red stitches with your fingertips. Feel its weight. Yeah, it's just right. Grip that ball like you're gonna throw a circle change. Remember how it's supposed to come off your middle and ring fingers? Don't roll it off your pinkie. Ice your shoulder. Lace your spikes. Pull up your cuffs and show those socks. Pound your glove. Hit the bases with your left foot. Line up your knuckles. Adjust your helmet. Keep your hips loose, eyes on the ball, back elbow down, hands up, soft step into the pitch, hips hands throw the barrell, make the turn at full speed, find the ball, slide into second. Do you smell the dirt?
Opening Day doesn't represent hope. It doesn't represent rebirth in a troubled world where death and destruction are as common and present as breakfast and dinner. It is not a beginning. Rather, it is a goal. We made it from October to March, with only football, basketball, and perhaps friends and family, to help bridge the awful gap. Now, it's April. We smell Dodger Dogs, garlic fries, and dirt. Life may resume where we left off five and a half months ago.
This season, baseball will continue stories begun in years past. Again, Dontrelle kicks high and slings a fastball. Again, Vlad whips the lumber and trots the basepaths. Again, Nomar twitches (Is the groin bothering him?). Again, Papi smiles. Again, the sun shines, the lights come on, the rain comes down, and the Twins play in a hideous dome. Some stories will probably conclude this year. Clint Hurdle will ask one of his Rockies for one last pointless sacrifice bunt. Mike Lowell will ground weakly to short and know, somewhere in his bones, that wraparound shades, a windbreaker, and a spot on the bench is nigh. Of course, some stories will begin, and we will watch them unfold over the years. God knows how or when they'll start, or whom they'll involve.
Speaking of God, they say that if you want to make Her laugh, tell Her your plans. Very well. Come October, I plan to mock Atlantans again for not attending playoff games. The Tomahawk Chop is enough to warrant scorn, but failing to sell out playoff games runs afoul of basic conceptions of decency and justice. I plan to celebrate Milton Bradley after he rebuilds his reputation and vindicates Paul DePodesta; young Bradley should fit nicely into the Athletics' rich history of nurturing eccentrics to their full on-field potential. I plan to curse the Yankees even as I get goosebumps from the Stadium's red, white, and blue bunting. Come October, I plan to feel soiled and infected whenever Barry Bonds hits a home run, but cleansed with each Noah Lowry changeup. I plan to knit my brows at one of Tony LaRussa's counter-productive late inning maneuvers. Come October, I plan to point out Travis Hafner, Cleveland slugger and American League MVP, and gloat to my dad, "I told you so two years ago." I plan to yell at my television and slug the wall next to my radio.
Most important, during the next few months I plan to whisper, write, sigh, and laugh. Pleasure is no good without pain, and baseball provides heaps of both. Inevitably, one of my well intentioned, yet utterly oblivious, friends will ask how I can get so caught up in baseball. You gotta wake up and smell the dirt.