What Opening Day Means

Every year I look forward to Opening Day. There is just something about the beginning of baseball that makes everything seem right with the world. It signifies the beginning where everyone starts over with a clean slate and all teams are looking to reach a single goal. There is no bickering and fighting, no one has an extended losing streak, no one is being sent back to the minors. Cuts have already been made and the 25 players on the roster represent the best pieces to make a team successful and lead them to the post season. It is a rite of passage signifying the end of spring and innocence. It is a metaphor of life when each of us leaves the nest and branch out on our own. We are bound to make mistakes and some of us will fail but the strong will survive on their diligence, their hard work, and with a little luck. In the end they will be rewarded based upon their performance with the most consistent being rewarded with the ultimate prize.

Opening Day at the ballpark is always filled with anticipation as you wait to see the players introduced in front of what everyone hopes is a sold out crowd. Each stadium is dressed in its best with bunting hanging around the park. The grass will never look better than it does before that first pitch. The bases are carefully set into place the whiteness shining in the sunlight. The baselines seem to stretch for miles signifying the barrier between fair/foul and right/wrong. On Opening Day when the national anthem is played you stand a little taller thinking of the sacrifices that were made so that you could be there to watch the game. In the case of the Diamondbacks the national anthem was accompanied by a fly over of F-16 fighters always an awe inspiring sight. Opening Day is the perfect day.

Opening Day Chase Field 2009

This Opening Day has special meaning for me. Although it is the twelfth consecutive Diamondbacks Opening Day I have attended; it is a first for me. For the first time in my life my parents are visiting. They normally live in Idaho which is about as far removed from Major League Baseball as any place on the planet. My parents have been instrumental instilling in me a love of baseball. As a child my father spent countless hours with me in the front yard teaching me how to throw, catch, and hit. He was my first little league coach and helped me to become the player that I was. My mom was there to make sure my uniform was clean, I was bandaged up after every mishap, and that I had the proper support from the stands. She also kept score at every game and helped me to understand the statistical side of baseball. I can never repay what they have done for me but I can take them to a ball game and show them the results of all their hard work and they can see the game as it is played at its highest level.

I honestly thought I would never have this opportunity. Two years ago my mother was diagnosed with cancer and her health deteriorated very quickly. Just a year ago the doctors were preparing the family for the worst. Their prognosis was that she would live only a short while longer. My brothers and I were preparing for the worst; life without mom. She has always been such a strong woman that we should have known she would never give up. Still the odds were definitely not in her favor. We each made a trip home to see her what we thought may be the last time. I was there for two weeks as she was in the hospital. It was the hardest thing I have ever endured. As I left I hugged her and kissed her and promised I would keep in touch. I kept that promise calling every week. After talking for a few minutes about her health she wanted to talk about baseball. Maybe it was her way of diverting the conversation or maybe she was just interested. It didn’t matter, we just talked. I would send her the articles I wrote each month for DBacks Insider Magazine and she would tell me how dad would read them to her while she was having tests run. I wondered how long this would last. The doctor’s outlook began to change though and mom started to regain some of her strength. She began to sound more like herself again and before long she and dad talked about coming to Phoenix to visit. When the dates were finalized the Diamondbacks schedule had not been released. When it was I could not believe my good fortune; they would be here for Opening Day. I called down to the Diamondbacks and spoke to Luis Calderon. He was amazing finding four tickets for me so that we could sit together in Section 111 Row 8 just a few seats away from my normal location. Our kids sat in our seats and Trina and I sat next to mom and dad.

We arrived at the stadium early; partly because I always come early and partly to give my mother time to get to her seat. She is confined to a walker now but she insisted on walking down to her seat. We sat there and took in the sights and sounds of Chase Field. I pointed out each of the things that make this stadium and this team so special to me. Mom’s eyes danced with excitement as we sat there and watched the game. It was even more incredible when the Diamondbacks won that game capping a perfect day. We walked out of the stadium and my parents thanked me over and over for the wonderful day they had. It was me that was grateful; grateful for the Diamondbacks fan first attitude to help me find seats, to each individual who works for the Diamondbacks who helped us make this such a special day. Mom’s struggles are far from over. The cancer remains and she will have many challenges for the rest of her life but for a brief moment she was back with her son watching the greatest game on earth. Mom’s facing her own Opening Day in a sense. Her season is long and will be filled with ups and downs. She may not make it to the playoffs but she will do her best and in the end she will be rewarded for her efforts. As for me I plan to be there cheering her on just as I do the Diamondbacks. This is what makes Opening Day so special.

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