AT&T Park first came to life on April 11, 2000, and I was one of the lucky ones playing hooky from work to be there. A lot has taken place in my life over the past decade. But one thing has been a constant, today will be my 14th straight Opening Day. God willing, I’ll have the health and wherewithal to attend many more. I’ve been able to attend Opening Day with my dad, my son, my fiancée and friends. I always find a way to be there because for me, like many Americans, it is a day of rebirth. Spring has now arrived. Life is right again.
Baseball’s Opening Day, like the blossom of a cherry tree, the bud of a grapevine, or the spryness of a stallion in the field, signals warmth, signals optimism, another chance, hope and joy.
Back in its early days, the ballpark felt hollow. While its aesthetic evoked baseball’s past, it lacked historic relevance. Something was missing: tangible, real history. Nothing had happened there yet. No Merkle’s boner. No ball between Buckner’s wickets. No pennant chases. Just the sounds of construction and the hope the ballpark would just be better than Candlestick!
As it opens its gates to its 14th season, the “Miracle by the Bay” has now hosted three World Series, an All Star game, a World Baseball Classic and been host to over 1,100 baseball games along with the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, operas and other entertaining events. Now, its history is tangible.
On Opening Day, the energy of the crowd is unique. The real fans are here on Opening Day. The ones who scrimp and save to hold season tickets. The ones who have history with the Giants, the ones who lived lifetimes before seeing a World Series title.
The Giants will sell over 3 million tickets this season. As they’ve become the class of major league baseball, the number of “Giants Faithful” has swelled. Many of them, especially those younger ones, don’t know the pain their elder Giant fans in arms lived through for so many years.
On this day, we see the true Orange and Black. The fans who dealt with Johnny LeMaster, Greg Minton, Chris Brown and countless minor league players who never panned out on the major league scene. People who may have lost a toe at Candlestick to frostbite. Croix de Candlestick holders. These fans eschew Momo’s across from the yard in favor of a beer (or something less legal) on the pier behind centerfield. They won’t be on their smartphones waving to TV cameras while the game is on. Their eyes will be on the field and on their scorecards. They love baseball and their Giants.
We’ll all debate the prospects of the coming 2013 season. Will Timmy shine again? Can Belt hit lefties? Will Crawford win a Gold Glove? Who will Sabean trade for at the deadline in July? Can we repeat?
There will be military jet flyovers, black and orange balloons, bunting, fireworks, songs, and too many slaps on the backs from ownership. I honestly can’t stand all that crap! But I’ll can sit through it so I can relish in the sight of the 2012 World Series Banner being raised in center field. No one knows who will be given that special honor of raising the flag. Mike Murphy? Scutaro? Pablo? Willie Mays? We’ll soon see.
Opening Day is special. I’m grateful to have the ability to be part of it each year. The Giants team, with their victorious ways of late, have created the history the ballpark initially lacked. Today, it is right there with Fenway, Wrigley, or Dodger Stadium as one of the premier baseball parks in all the land. It is truly a gift to have been part of all this.