Gotta Love Twins Opening Day
Today I make peace with baseball.
It’s Opening Day and I don’t care if the Twins-Orioles game lasts until midnight. Each team can parade most of its pitchers to the mound, sometimes making two or three changes per inning. Batters can constantly step out of the box to adjust their underwear, or whatever it is they do.
Advertisers can toss in extra commercials between innings. The game can go 15 innings, or more. Nothing is going to lessen my enthusiasm for Opening Day.
Pace of play is an issue for 161 games a year but not today in Baltimore when our favorite MLB club begins another season.
On Opening Day I put aside the scandal that long ago stained many love affairs with baseball. The use of steroids by players has changed performances, altered the record books and cast suspicion over Major League Baseball. The purity of the National Pastime was erased a couple decades ago, and I am still in recovery.
But today anyone who cares a Cracker Jack box about the game of Ruth, Mantle, Mays, Puckett and Mauer can come together under one big tent of forgiveness. Opening Day in Major League Baseball is Americana—a time honored ritual of U.S. Presidents throwing out first pitches, kids skipping school and business people leaving work early for “appointments” not on their calendars.
If the Twins are on the road Opening Day, you watch. If they open at home, you watch.
The weather? Who cares? Today in Baltimore it’s supposed to be about 70 degrees at game time. That sounds heavenly compared to the 33 degree temps at a Twins home opener in the 1960s when snow bordered the outfield fence at Met Stadium.
Back then I actually welcomed inclement weather, particularly rain delays. The Twins broadcast team included Halsey Hall, a master storyteller who delighted listeners with tales about baseball while thunder crackled in the background.
Hall was a beloved character who was heard on Gophers football broadcasts and read in the Minneapolis Star before the Twins came to town in 1960. He joined with Herb Carneal and Ray Scott to give the franchise the best broadcasting trio in its history.
Listening to Halsey’s tales and infectious laugh made listeners forget about rainy weather. And just looking at him even made you feel good. He had the appearance of a kindly, overweight grandfather. He often had a smile on his face, a cigar or green onion in his mouth, and greeted you with, “Hi, kid.”
Carneal, who passed away in 2007, had many Halsey stories. A favorite happened in Chicago when Halsey was smoking a cigar in the press box and flicking ashes on the floor. The ashes ignited paper on the floor, setting off a small fire. Halsey’s sport coat, hanging on a chair, caught fire.
Twins catcher Jerry Zimmer quipped, “Halsey Hall is quite a guy. He can turn an ordinary sport coat into a blazer in nothing flat.’”
I doubt we will see any press box developments like that today in Baltimore but the game will be an opportunity to form first impressions about the Twins like these:
How does new pitcher Jake Odorizzi perform in his first ever major league start?
Can newcomer Logan Morrison flash the uppercut swing that made him a home run hitter last season?
Byron Buxton closed so impressively last season he drew comparisons—gulp—to Willie Mays. Buxton didn’t fast-track the start of his career like Mays. Which Buxton will we see early this year?
What if Joe Mauer actually swings at the first pitch during one of his at bats today?
Can Miguel Sano play nine innings without injuring himself?
Could Ryan LaMarre, who surprised the Twins by leading the club in batting average at .475 during spring training, come off the bench with a big pinch hit against the Orioles?
Today’s game might prompt Twins GM Thad Levine to think about his dad. Growing up in Virginia, a five-year-old Levine attended an Orioles game in Baltimore. He fell in love with baseball and it forever impacted the relationship with his father.
“It’s the bond that has tied me to my dad,” Levine said last year.
Opening Day makes us all kids again. “It’s like Christmas, except it’s warmer,” Pete Rose once said.
It doesn’t matter that much whether the Twins win or lose today. They can blow a lead, or Sano can homer in extra innings for a win. The Twins can commit five errors and give the game away, or replacement shortstop Eduardo Escobar (he of limited range) can make a play for the ages to save a run and provide Minnesota a dramatic victory. The point is, it’s Opening Day and nothing can ruin the party.
And it doesn’t hurt the hopes for a winning season that there are 161 more games to be played.