March 21, 2013; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) before a spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Another Year, Another 162

Oct 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A general view of Great American Ballpark during batting practice prior to the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants in game three of the 2012 NLDS at Great American Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Wasn’t any more than six months ago that Jay Bruce was fouling off Sergio Romo, desperately trying to drive in the tying runs on base or advance the Reds onto the next round of the playoffs with one looping swing of his lumber. After an at-bat that lasted longer than an episode of Seinfeld, Jay Bruce eventually flew out before Scott Rolen took his final at-bat of his career, and of the Reds once promising 2012 campaign. The air had collectively been sucked from Great American Ballpark; the lights eventually went off and the Reds were relegated to winter hibernation where they had nothing but time to think about the Giants becoming the first team ever to recover from an 0-2 deficit on the road.

Today we celebrate the reset button. We a celebrate the white page, the empty canvass. For just 24 hours, it’s all in front of us. 162 games on-deck, to be delivered on time and on schedule. Games canceled by weather are returned on a later date – when else in life are you given this kind of assurance that you don’t have to pay a monthly premium for?

Opening Day is a special day, especially in Cincinnati, but it’s Game #2 that I long for. Game 1 is for celebration –  a massive welcome back party for a familiar, old friend. In some fashion, everyone in Cincinnati has a tradition Maybe you go to the parade, then catch the game. Maybe you have family that flies in, just for this day. Unforgettable walk-off wins and gut-wrenching losses send us immediately to the internet, where we’ll predict the remaining 161 games, based solely on what’s happened on #1.

But when the parade stops back at Findlay Market and the fireworks subside around 7 pm this evening, that’s when it’s really baseball season for me. Today is an event. Wednesday will just be Wednesday, with a baseball game. The next five months will be measured in increments of three games. Minutes and hours will be replaced by balls and strikes. Days replaced by wins and losses. Every single evening has the opportunity to be the best day of the week – or the worst.

Baseball has mastered the art of suspense. I say that in a month dominated by the most exciting post-season tournament in all of sports. Few things are comparable to the magic of a game-winning jump shot as time expires. A successful two-minute drill for the win in football can literally make your entire week. But baseball has the ability to gut you. Those game-winning shots and touchdowns are but a moment of pure euphoria or devastation. The sensation can last longer, but no matter what side of the moment you’re on, it’s just a moment.

Baseball isn’t as generous. “The moment” in baseball, can last a lot longer than just one. The most important at-bat of a game will last as long at it has to – it doesn’t answer to a clock. Take yourself to the moment before your favorite basketball team in-bounds a ball down one with under ten seconds, or your favorite football team has just used its final timeout and will have one play from scrimmage to decide the entire game. The anxiety can be overwhelming, but either way, your resolution is within seconds. Baseball offers no immediate relief.

Jay Bruce came to the plate last year at 4:49 pm with the entire 2012 campaign resting on his at-bat.  Scott Rolen received his first called strike at 4:59. Ten excruciating minutes of gut-wrenching hope, for a pedestrian fly-out.  And like that, it was over.

Have we gotten it all out of our system? Doesn’t matter. Baseball waits for no man. Today is just the title page of a long summer read. Who knows what this season has in store. Maybe it’ll finally be our year in Cincinnati. Regardless, the 162 is here. Another year, another parade, another sold out stadium on the river front.

Between now and September, we’ll have argued everything from whether or not the Reds got it right with Chapman to if Dusty Baker used the right pinch-hitter in the 13th inning of a tie game. Because that’s what you do in a 162 game season. Today isn’t so much an opening as it is a renewal. A renewal of water-cooler chats, online debates, falling asleep to west coast games and waking up to Sports Center recaps, blogs and bobble-heads and an unhealthy amount of bubble gum.

Get comfortable. It’s a long season.

 

 

 

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