Tag Archives: Opening Day

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

I’ve Got a Fever and the Prescription is Baseball, and More Cowbell

In a little under two weeks the 2013 Major League Baseball season will officially begin with the prime-time Easter Sunday showdown between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.

Minute Maid Park will be the site of the first game of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Photo R Anderson

Minute Maid Park will be the site of the first game of the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
Photo R Anderson

Ever since I bought my ticket to that game I have found myself with a little spring in my step knowing that soon the games will count for real.

I guess it is not to say that Spring Training does not count but there is certainly a difference between the validity of a Spring Training record versus a regular season record.

Another factor that has me ready for the start of the season is the historic aspect of being present for not only the first game of the season but also the first game for the Astros in the American League.

So with all of the excitement one might even say I have a fever for baseball.

The fever got me thinking about a classic Saturday Night Live skit involving Christopher Walken. In the skit Walken plays a music producer who has a fever and the only cure is more cowbell.

Throughout the skit Will Ferrell runs around like a man possessed banging his cowbell all over the sound stage to the dismay of his band mates.

With the baseball season approaching I am in the mood for more cowbell. Photo R. Anderson

With the baseball season approaching I am in the mood for more cowbell.
Photo R. Anderson

If you have never watched the skit I highly recommended you do so if for no other reason than to watch one of Jimmy Fallon’s many times that he broke character and laughed during a skit.

Inspired by the skit, teams soon made sure that cowbells were available in the various gift shops for fans to make sure they get into the spirit.

Of the ballparks that I have visited I have to say that Tropicana Filed, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, is the most cowbell frenzied one.

While the Rays often rank near the bottom each year in terms of attendance one cannot deny that the fans who are there definitely make some noise and that noise is often fueled from cowbells.

What can I say there is just something fun about thousands of one’s closet friends clanging on the cowbell in unison.

Fred Schneider of the rock band The B-52's is definitely someone who enjoys more cowbell has demonstrated during a concert at Tropicana field. Photo R. Anderson

Fred Schneider of the rock band The B-52’s is definitely someone who enjoys more cowbell as demonstrated during a concert at Tropicana field.
Photo R. Anderson

But like everything in life there is a time and a place for the cowbell.

The most appropriate times to ring the cowbell are when a pitcher has two strikes on an opposing batter, the home team player reaches base or scores a run, and of course whenever one is prompted to do so by the stadium announcer or visual cues.

Of course another time for cowbell in the ballpark is when the B-52s are in concert there. That was the case during my first visit to Tropicana Field.  For those unfamiliar with the band, they do enjoy their cowbell as well.

So hopefully the thoughts of baseball and cowbells have you pumped for the start of the season as well.

Now if you’ll excuse I need to make sure my cowbell is still in tune.  And remember don’t fear the cowbell.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson