Forget that the Royals are 0-2 on the season, with gut-wrenching losses that came in the ninth inning or later. Let’s pretend that the bullpen—something that was widely regarded as the team’s greatest asset—cost the team each time, and that the offense looked flatter than a European model’s ass. (So, you know, no different than last season’s offense.)
None of that matters because it’s only two games, an infinitesimal percentage of the season, and even better, it’s Opening Day at the K.
It’s truly a majestic day, filled with hope and fun and joy and promise. It’s an emotional bulldozer of optimism and parking lot beers and a packed, raucous stadium filled with a million people who probably won’t go to another game this season. Opening Day is Christmas morning for baseball fans, which I guess makes all of the idiots selling street-corner papers Santa Claus. (The cause seems legit, but I question the tactic of having eight dudes line up at one stoplight. If I gave a death glare to the first three, what in the flying fuck makes you think I’ll buy a paper from the other five of you? Even the homeless know how to spread their begging out. Come on, guys.)
If you’re like me—and I pray to God for your mental health that you’re not—you’re not going today. See, I’d give anything to be there, to be a part of the revelry, but I work in a field closely related to tax filing. And what THAT means is that, in order to get a day off in March or April, my mom had better be recently deceased. (Or possibly dying.) And she’s not—thankfully—so I’m stuck here in my cube, thinking forlornly of Opening Day’s Past.
I used to go every year. I was there in ’03 when expectations were low, but something magical grew from the shit-pile of futility. I was back again in ’04, when expectations were at their highest. Juan Gonzalez, who was brought in to be one of the final pieces of the playoff puzzle (LOLZZZ!!!) went 2-4, and new catcher Benito Santiago (again, LOLZZZ!!!) provided three RBIs in his Royals’ debut. You remember the game, probably, even if you weren’t in attendance.
It was in the mid-60s and sunny, perfect for April baseball. Kansas City trailed the Chicago White Sox and former Royal-killer Mark Buehrle almost from the beginning.
With KC down 7-3, folk-hero/urban legend/infielder/probable-current-Kia-salesman Mendy Lopez blasted a three-run homer off of Damaso Marte to tie it in the ninth. Then, fresh off of his AL Rookie of the Year award (more LOLZZZ, still), Angel Berroa singled. Carlos Beltran came up next, and took Marte’s 2-2 pitch over the wall in left for the walk-off victory.
And then, pandemonium. An eruption of cataclysmic proportions. Beer flying into the air and raining down upon everyone like an alcoholic’s sweet, DT-induced dream. High-fiving and hugging complete strangers around me. Screaming until I thought my lungs would burst and spasming in embarrassing, white-guy ways.
I’d never been a part of anything like it before, and I certainly haven’t since. It’s just the kind of thing that happens when your team hasn’t made the playoffs since you were four-years-old. Opening Day 2004 was the greatest sports moment in my life, and while that may be a depressing fact, I’ll treasure it forever.
So if you’re heading out there today, I hope you get something just as cool. It’s supposed to be chilly—but nice—and expectations are higher than ’04, I’d wager. And let’s look on the bright-side: despite the 0-2 start, catcher/phenom Salvy Perez is on pace to hit 243 doubles (which would shatter the previous MLB record of much less than 243 doubles), and Jason Vargas looked really excellent in his first start.
It’s the little things.