In April 1954, four days removed from my seventh birthday, my father gave me maybe the best present I ever got, a ticket to the Baltimore Orioles’ very first home opener. That April 15 made enough of an impression on me, what with the green grass, huge crowd, and victorious final score, that I begged and pleaded for him to take me out to the old ball game each and every home opener until I went away to college. In fact, I’ve been to every Orioles’ home opener, except for the four years from 1970-73 when I was in the Navy.
Now, 57 years later, as we anticipate with great excitement the start of another Orioles’ season, opening day remains one of the special days of the year; kind of like Christmas in springtime, and certainly the best sporting event by far.
The reasons why baseball’s inaugural reigns supreme are too numerous and complex for this accounting, but here are three…
First – the start of the baseball season coincides with the close of winter. After months of crunching and sliding our way over brown, frozen tundra, we get to embrace the perfectly manicured, freshly cut green grass of OriolePark.
Second – there’s the eager anticipation of the very special pre-game festivities: player introductions, the national anthem, and the umpire shouting, “Play Ball.”
Third – it’s a new beginning for our Birds and their fans. Everything is equal and even, at least for that one day; the advent of a championship season floating wonderfully in the dreams and hopes of those assembled.
So for me, and certainly for many others, the day is made even more special because it is shared with friends and family…with my wife and my son, whose presence in that lower-reserve seat next to mine reminds me of that long ago April, 57 years past, when my father introduced me to the greatest tradition any fan could ever embrace.
Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.