Baseball Opener Comes Stateside

Last night the long drought from the last out of the World Series in October, to the first pitch of the 2014 Major League Baseball season came to an end.

The evening was filled with all of the typical prime-time opening night festivities that one comes to expect from the National Pastime and helped usher in the next six months of the sporting calendar.

Technically the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season occurred in Australia during a two-game series Down Under between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in my mind one cannot really count those games as the start of the season since the other 28 teams were still playing Spring Training ball.

Australia is a great place to see wombats but is not not the best place to host regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson

Australia is a great place to see wombats but is not not the best place to host regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact even the Dodgers and Diamondbacks returned to playing Spring Training games once their trip to Australia was complete.

I know that MLB puts signature series games in exotic locales around the globe each year as a way to build the fan base outside of North America.

I also know that the idea of playing games in a converted cricket stadium that was built before the United States Civil War is certainly a unique venue that is hard to pass up.

And despite the time difference that made catching both games stateside difficult from what I saw the fans in Australia seemed to enjoy the Major League Baseball experience.

And if some children in the stands grow up to be lifelong fans of baseball, or perhaps even turn into Major League players, like Tampa Bay Rays pitcher and Australia native Grant Balfour, then the money spent taking the game to Sydney will be worth it.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Australia a few years back and it is certainly a lovely place to visit as it is full of wonderful historical venues and culture.  But, due to it being located on the other side of the globe it is perhaps not the best venue for hosting regular season baseball games in the middle of Spring Training since it could put the teams playing in them at a disadvantage.

I am all for increasing the global reach of baseball and think that games should be played around the globe. I also firmly believe that baseball should once again be played at the Summer Olympic Games so I am not saying that North America should be the only area where Major League Baseball is played.

But, for the good of the game I think that those games that are played each year in exotic locales should count as Spring Training games and not regular season games.

Under this plan the fans in those far off countries would still have the chance to see Major League Baseball games in person but the players would not be at the disadvantage of already playing games that count in the middle of Spring Training.

Opening nights in baseball such as the one last year between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers often feature large flags. Photo R. Anderson

Opening nights in baseball such as the one last year between the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers often feature large flags.
Photo R. Anderson

So, in my mind the real start of the season was last night between the Dodgers (winners of those two games in Australia) and the San Diego Padres.

Starting the year between two teams from the same state is nothing new for MLB.

Last year the prime time opener had a bit of Texas twang to it when the newly minted American League Houston Astros hosted their in-state and new division foes the Texas Rangers.

The Astros won the season opener last year against the Rangers and then proceeded to take a season long dive that would make a Grecian free diver proud.

Before that first pitch of the prime time opener each year there is the promise of a season full of potential. A single game, win or lose, certainly does not make a season. Winning the season opener in front of a prime time audience does not guarantee smooth sailing throughout the rest of the season anymore than losing the opener means that the season will be a complete waste.

While all eyes were on the Dodgers and the Padres last night, the other 28 teams will start play today and tomorrow as they each drive towards the goal of a World Series title.

There will be individual story lines to follow this year such as Derek Jeter’s final season as a player and Ryan Braun’s return from being suspended last year for Performance Enhancing Drug use.

One of the highlights of opening night is when the players from both teams are introduced and line the infield before the game. Photo R. Anderson

One of the highlights of opening night is when the players from both teams are introduced and line the infield before the game.
Photo R. Anderson

There will be larger stories to look at as well this season such as the role that expanded instant replay will have on the results of games in addition to what teams will exceed the preseason predictions and make a push for the playoffs.

The MLB season will be six months of endless possibilities that will allow fans of all ages to take in the sites and the sounds of the game just as they have for generations.

Sure, starting the season with a pair of games in a cricket stadium surrounded by wombats, koalas and kangaroos can be cool now and then but for me there is nothing like the appeal of multiple games every night back in the 30 Ballparks of Major League Baseball.

The cold days of winter are behind us for the most part and the Boys of Summer are ready to hit the ground swinging. And if one of those Boys of Summer happens to hit the bull they just might win a steak dinner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which games to watch tonight. Play Ball!

Copyright 2014 R Anderson