It’s Opening Day!…again

So today is the opening day of the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season… again! Last week we had Oakland and Seattle “officially” open up the regular season in Japan. Last night, we had the Cardinals and the Marlins open up Miami’s brand-new ballpark as the official opening game of the season here in the states. Today we will have seven games on the docket with the rest of the team’s opening up on Friday.

I understand that MLB is trying to create more hype and more excitement by stretching opening day into opening week. But by doing so I feel they have actually watered down that hype and excitement as fans the past week and a half have gone from regular season games to spring training games back to regular season games.

Last week’s “season opening series” in Japan forced the Mariners and the A’s to play two games that counted in the regular season standings just so that MLB could tell their Japanese fan base that the games they were watching were for real. In reality, the main reason why those fans were there to watch those two games was to cheer local boy Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners. The only time the fans showed any kind of excitement was when the Mariners star outfielder came to bat. MLB could have easily made it a two-game exhibition series between the two teams and the Japanese fans would have still come out to the park to see their local hero.

Last year MLB moved their traditional start of the regular season from the Sunday night opener to Thursday with the rest of the schedule opening up on Friday for weekend series. While last year’s change was made specifically so that the World Series would not end the first or second week in November, MLB elected to keep the start of the season midweek this year even though it will come later in April than it has in the recent past.

While considering myself somewhat of a baseball purist, I haven’t been totally against some of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s “radical” changes to the game. The awarding of the winner of the MLB All-Star game home-field advantage in the World Series, the addition of a wild-card team in each league for the playoffs and now a second wild-card team, interleague play and moving the Astros from the National League to the American League to even out the league’s. While I could have easily been happy if none of that had happened, I also feel that it hasn’t really radically changed the feel of the game.

But for those of us that are lifelong baseball fans and spend the time from the end of the World Series to the end of spring training counting down the days to opening day, messing around with the start of the MLB regular season diminishes what has been one of baseball’s all-time greatest assets. The start of spring, warm weather, renewed hope (especially for those of you that are Cub fans) and simply getting out of the house after being cooped up over the long winter months. Baseball’s opening day has been like no other in sports where people took off from work, it was okay for you to skip school and for some people (like myself) it was understood months in advance where they would be today.

The National Football League understood this when they decided to move their opening game to a Thursday night with all the hype and pomp and circumstance surrounding it. But it still couldn’t touch baseball’s opening “day” experience. Now baseball’s “opening day” has become much more of a local experience and not a national experience and I personally find that somewhat sad.

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