Happy MLB Opening Day, from the House of Knucklehead to yours!
For The Knucklehead and me, Opening Day is one of our few High Holy Days. My day started today at 4:00AM EDT, as the MLB season began this year in Australia with a game between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. I have mixed feelings about beginning the season so far afield (get it?), but if some folks in Australia enjoyed watching meaningful American professional baseball, well, good for them. (My sole Australian reader, whoever you are: did you see the game? Thanks for hosting!)
So at 4:00 AM, I stumble to the couch, joust with an extremely confused dog or two for sofa space (“Are we getting up? Are we not getting up? I don’t understand.”), and turn on the TV to enjoy… an hour of MLB Network jibber-jabber. Rain delay. Great. Another hallowed baseball tradition. I fell asleep, woke up, and it was 3-0 Dodgers. Happy Opening Day.
Still, it’s Opening Day, and that’s a great day of promise. Instead of waxing philosophic about it all, I’m going to reminisce about two notable Opening Days Knucks and I shared together.
The first was March 30, 2004, the only Opening Day we actually spent at a Major League Ballpark. The season began during The Knucklehead’s Spring Break from elementary school. We had a week together, so we packed ourselves into my 1991 Suzuki Sidekick (how that car ever made it through the bulk of our road trips I’ll never know), and headed south down 95 to knock our sixth, seventh, and eighth ballparks off the list. We caught the Yankees playing the (then) Devil Rays. Tampa Bay won 8-3 in a raucous come-from-behind affair, and that was great. Still, it didn’t have that “Opening Day” excitement you hope for. For that, I think you need a place like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or Boston or Chicago. Places where baseball is more central to the local population, and places where late March really does bring with it at least the promise that winter is coming to a close. Tampa Bay lacked the feeling that a lot of grown-ups had skipped work to join together and welcome back baseball, and each other from being snowed in since The Series. Maybe that’s why we were able to score tickets so easily. In any event, we had fun, and we got to join the excitement of a home opener. Also, we learned two important lessons at that game. Bringing a lot of cowbells indoors is headache-inducing. And bringing a lot of Yankees fans indoors is similarly headache-inducing.
But it was a good week. We pitched a tent at a campsite strategically located in central Florida, and from our base of operations we bopped around the state, touring the Kennedy Space Center, and watching the (then) Florida Marlins drop a game to the Expos. This was at their old Pro Player Stadium, at which The Knucklehead was horrified to discover a baseball team that employed – gasp! – cheerleaders. Let me tell you, the instrument that can accurately measure the indignity of the 9-year-old knucklehead has yet to be invented. “Cheerleaders are for football!” I think it was all I could get out of him on the drive to Atlanta. The Braves game we hit in Atlanta was a memorable one, and will be the subject of a future post. All I’ll say here is that when driving from Florida to Pennsylvania, Atlanta is not “a quick stop on the way home” as I imagined it was then. We figured we put more than 3,200 miles on the car on that trip. Good thing we like each other’s company.
Skip ahead four years to March 25, 2008. Opening Day that year takes place in Tokyo, in a 2-games series between our beloved Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A’s. This was during the middle of the week (I think it was a Wednesday), a school day, and because of the time difference, the game will be broadcast locally at 6:00 AM. Knucks happens to be waking up at our place that morning, not at his Mom’s, so he’s jonesing to get up early and catch at least the start of the game before school. No problem.
Now, I’m a decent cook, and I always made sure to put healthy meals on the table for The Knucklehead. Breakfast is important, but it was always the most challenging meal to get him to eat. I learned for example, that homemade sausage, biscuit, and egg sandwiches were usually the best way to get him to eat something on soccer mornings, when I especially wanted him to be fueled up. So you can decide whether the following makes me the Best Dad Ever or the Worst Dad Ever. Because, when your day starts at 6:00 AM with a baseball game, what are you going to have for breakfast?
We enjoyed a breakfast of hot dogs, popcorn, and root beer. He still talks about it today. And his mom, to her credit, never gave me grief about it.
Not only that, but My Bride, who was not yet My Bride at the time since we had become engaged earlier that year, got up even earlier than we did so she could come over to our place and have breakfast and watch the game with us. How’s that for a sign that you’re marrying the right person?
Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up 2 runs fast, in the first inning. (We had no idea at the time, but this was not going to be an anomaly.) So the Sox were down when I had to take Knucks to school during the early innings, and he didn’t get to see the Sox come back and win it. At least when I picked him up for school he’d gotten the good news that his team came back to win it, and not that they’d coughed up a lead. But it was that breakfast that stuck with us. What better way for a 13-year-old knucklehead to start the day, than with hot dogs, popcorn, and baseball? Not a bad way for his dad to greet the day, either.
Happy Opening Day! From our house to yours.