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Brendan Kennealy

The Chance To Be Great

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The only thing more wonderful than a summer in full swing is the very promise of summer. And at no time is that promise more anticipated or electric than on Opening Day. On Opening Day, all those warm nights you'll spend at the ballpark beneath the bright lights and dark sky are like a cold beer not yet tasted; each sip is craved and full of sweet, calming booze. And while even the most bitter beer will be gladly glugged on a hot day in July, there is almost nothing so bad about a lousy baseball team or a lost season that can't be forgotten among dripping ice cream cones and the tuneless songs of the 7th-inning stretch.
Opening Day is the one time each year when every baseball fan is able to look forward to all 162 games with equal measures of excitement, hope and wonder. Last season's accomplishments and disappointments don't matter anymore, or not as much anyway. Title winners and cellar dwellers become only memories, some sweeter than others, and for the innocent kid in all of us, the day's game takes precedence. Yesterday is gone; we may talk about it in awe or disbelief as Baseball History dictates, but optimism reigns supreme because the boxscore has not yet been written. Any team can win and the World Series is once again up for grabs. Every team has the chance to be great, and the beer man has a full case.
April lays claim to ceremonial first pitches and first hot dogs. Rain delays are upon us. Fresh grass stains cover the knees of MVPs and little leaguers alike. Our hometown favorites and the most-hated visiting players survive early slumps, and we bleacher-warmers chase foul balls and spill our Cokes. Our hands sting for the batted ball that slips through our fingers.
But then May and June's warm winds will come to dance across our sweat-cooled necks. The sun will burn our thighs. We'll cover our brats with relish, onions and sauerkraut, and the girls of summer will sport tan lines and tube tops. They'll wear flip flops, sundresses and smiles. There will be perfume enough to make even the strongest among us dizzy with pleasure.
Yes, the beer is always cold and sold in every ballpark by a tribe of nasal-voiced, South-Boston transplants. Grandfathers every year struggle to explain the infield fly rule to granddaughters whose tiny fingers are sticky with cotton candy. Sunflower seeds and peanuts sustain us. July's fireworks scream high above and shower down. All-Stars shine and shooting stars streak the sky above. Our hearts rise and fall with every pitch, every Home Run, every must-win game won, every dream dashed by the Damn Yankees. Road trips drag on like the winter you hope never comes.
But winning streaks and Pennant Fever grab hold in August. Injury bugs beget September call-ups. Prayers are launched skyward akin to moon-shot Home Runs. There are shoe-ins and long-shots. Heroes and villains. For every Casey, there's a Cobb. For every King of the Diamond, there is a Wild Card.
And so the dog days give way to Twi-Night Double headers; mittens and sweaters for Midwesterners. October berths are clinched. Playoff baseball begins. We suffer shortness of breath and see it in front of our faces. Every player's triumph is our own, each failure a punch to the gut. We suffer from heavy eyes and soaring hearts, our knuckles go white, we grind our teeth, pound our fists, kick awake our twitchy legs, let loose our hoarse voices, boos and belly-deep cheers.
There are happy tears for some and long, silent walks to the clubhouse for others. Some celebrate with a gleaming trophy and a ticker-tape parade. The rest of us empty the stands and share our front-page disappointment. November rains replace champagne showers. This is where the road leads, every year.
But on Opening Day we all get to wonder: will our team win it all? Is this our year? And along the way, as we wait for the superstitious to work their magic and for Lady Luck to come calling, we enjoy the scenery. The uncertainty. The possibility. The sunshine, the perfect green grass devoid of dog's mess. The promise of summer is upon us. Nothing is over. Nothing is written. Baseball is here and it will be great.

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