It’s finally here. Hallelujah, it’s finally here.
Back when I was in high school, my girlfriend at the time made an observation. When we hung out together, I was… well, me. A little quiet, a little reserved, sometimes if I was in the right mood, I could become more excitable.
But on the baseball field, I was a completely different person. I was loud. I joked around with everyone. I had a smile on my face practically the entire time. I’d come home from games and rave about the stupid things my teammates did on the field, but I still found them hilarious. Example: One of our outfielders needed to take a leak but didn’t want to run to the Port-a-Potty behind home plate. So, he had the rest of us create a blockade between him and the coaches gathering equipment in the dugout so he could piss in left-center field. Thank god no one had to make any diving catches in that area that day.
Kevin Millar turned heads when he described one of his Red Sox teams as being a bunch of idiots. Well, that’s how my high school team was, too, and yet I loved it. My varsity head coach was awesome. A man that knew his stuff. Yes, he told us that in order to be a good hitter, we had to master bunting. But he also pointed out that getting a walk was good, as it meant that you avoided that likely chance of hitting yourself into an out instead. He was a guy that you could have fun with, you respected, and you appreciated to have as a coach.
I barely saw game action during my lone varsity season. Hell, I was outhit by our Czech foreign exchange student that had never played baseball before coming to the States (he singled to center in his lone plate appearance, I walked in mine). Nevertheless, even despite our team’s inconsistent play and my dugout tirade that created my only plate appearance that year, I enjoyed it.
When I got to college, I decided I was going to give NCAA baseball a shot. Being in a Division 3 school, I knew that I’d have the slightest of chances of making it, but that was still better than if I had chosen to go to the U of M. Unfortunately, as soon as I met the head coach, I knew I couldn’t play for him.
He was like a Dementor. No, he didn’t have a black hood obscuring his face, but when he walked into the room and started speaking, you just had the joy sucked out of you. He was no-nonsense, didn’t even crack a smile the whole first meeting. I felt that if I whispered even one word to my roommate in that meeting, Coach would have forced the next words out of my mouth to be, “Zero fun, sir.” It’s a shame that my baseball-playing career has been put on indefinite hiatus because of a man I knew I wouldn’t like, but at least I left on my own terms.
To fill the void, I turned to blogging about a year and a half later. I was already a big baseball fan, but this, combined with sabermetrics, caused my love for the game to increase tenfold once again. However, a bit of that void always returns once the offseason hits. I adopted the offseason timeline my college friend, former fellow usher, and now-MLB Network employee Craig had in place. November is the Metrodome field crawl for Twins employees. December is the Holiday Party. January is TwinsFest. Finally, February is when spring training begins, signaling the unofficial return of (somewhat) meaningful baseball to our lives.
From a quick Google search, I’m amazed no one has parodied Green Day’s “Wake Me When September Ends” into “Wake Me When Spring Training Ends” yet, considering my friend Laura and I once casually mentioned it back in high school about 6 years ago. Maybe that’s something I should do for next season, and I’ll put as much of my heart and soul into it as I did when I made “Outdoor Subsidy.” I can’t think of anything else that could appropriately describe how I feel about regular season baseball returning more than that, and it’s a shame it doesn’t even exist yet.
These four Opening Days have been painful. The A’s and Mariners technically kicked off the season in Japan, but it just didn’t feel right. It was too early. It wasn’t even in North America. It was with two teams most casual baseball fans don’t really care about.
We had the Miami Marlins show off their monstrosity of a ballpark on Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. I watched the game, and I had no idea what I was looking at. It almost felt like Jeffrey Loria decided to bring back “Turn Ahead The Clock.” News flash: It was ugly back when it was done prior to Y2K, and it’s still ugly now. Plus, since when were one-game series legal? I didn’t see any other teams getting this favor done when they opened up their new stadium.
Thursday brought us a few more games, and it was even more agonizing as a Twins fan. Three teams have already played two games that count. The Twins and 12 others don’t even have one yet. That sounds fair.
Last year sucked, we all know that. But 2012 is a new year, and with that brings new hope. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are gone, but they’ve been adequately replaced by Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit. Joe Nathan is gone? Well, there’s Jared Burton, who very well could provide 80% of the production at around 3% of the cost. That revolving door at shortstop has been replaced by Jamey Carroll. Sure, he’s old and creaky, but he’ll get the job done.
Many people like holding signs at games that say, “Believe.” To that, I say flip those signs over and write on the back, “I Never Doubted,” for the regular season is finally here. This team is practically guaranteed to be better this year, so sit back, grab a cold drink, kick up your feet, and let the voices of Dick ‘n’ Bert enter your living room.
The road to the playoffs starts now.