With so many horrible things happening in the world, I almost feel guilty to be so excited about the start of baseball season. I get it if you think I’m being frivolous, especially when so much of the world seems to be falling apart.
I can’t help it, though. My tendency to look forward to the Phillies’ opening day might not be entwined in my DNA, but it’s been nurtured so strongly for so long that I’m sure it’s part of my brain chemistry.
I truly love the game. More than that, though, Phillies baseball will forever represent two things for me: connections and hope.
I can’t remember a summer without Phillies baseball as part of the soundtrack. I grew up spending summers at the Jersey Shore (decades before Snookie), and, along with the scent of Coppertone and the feel of sand between my toes, the transistor-radio voices of Saam, Ashburn, and Kalas are key memories of childhood summers at the beach.
My dad took me to my first game in April, 1971, the month Veterans Stadium opened. Typical for that era, the Phillies lost, a memory I had to confirm by looking it up online. I’ll never forget seeing Hank Aaron hit a home run in his quest to break Babe Ruth’s record at my first Phillies game with my dad, though.
The next summer, we got cable at the shore. My uncle – who took my Aunt Florence on vacation all over Florida in the late 1940s, when there “just happened” to be a Yankees spring training game in every town – was thrilled to have TV stations from Philadelphia and New York. He watched the Phillies, Mets, and his beloved Yankees, and I developed a huge crush on then-Mets pitcher Tug McGraw, never imagining that my brother and I would see him at a Christmas tree farm years later in 1980, just weeks after he threw the final strikeout of the Phillies first-ever World Series victory.
My dad and uncle were both gone by the times the Phillies moved to their new stadium, but their spirits were definitely with my mom, brother, and me when we saw the first night game – this time with a Phillies home run and victory – at Citizens Bank Park.
I have so many memories of Phillies baseball with my family that only half of them could fill a book.
Regardless of their age in 1980, all of the Phillies fans in my family had waited a lifetime to see our team win it all that year. Well, so had every Phillies fan, since it was their first World Series win.
I waited even longer to see them do it again in 2008.
Before and after those sweet seasons, we endured years of watching our guys languish at the bottom of the division or, worse yet, come this close to winning and then break our hearts, like in 1983 and 1993.
Come opening day, though, none that seems to matter. The days are warmer, the evening darkness comes later, and something about green grass and red and white pinstripes rekindles our hope that just maybe this year we’ll get to spend another beautiful fall day watching a parade down Broad Street is renewed.
And along with the hope, comes the certainty that, nearly every day for the next six months, we’ll have a chance to leave the scary, horrible stuff behind for a few hours.
While we make new connections and create new memories.