Baseball’s opening day is a mixed blessing in Cleveland. No other day in all of sports imbues the city’s sports fans with such hope and sincere anticipation, especially this year as its playoff team returns intact.
Conversely, snow piles still encroach on the corners of parking lots, and Lake Erie is still frozen so thick that you can drive to Canada.
I remember going to opening day with my old man, each of us bundled as though we were going to see a gridiron grudge match instead of the boys of summer. It was the days of the old Municipal Stadium, a cavernous 100,000-capacity monstrosity where the wind would whip like your own personal arctic blast that rendered you hypothermic at some point in the second inning.
Fans commonly wore hunting gear and snow mobile suits. Vendors hustled more hot chocolate and coffee than beer, and I would eat a mound of jalapeños with my nachos just to feel a bead of sweat on my brow, even if just for a moment.
As I grew older, it became less fun. But I was loath to admit it to Dad. After all, time together was increasingly sparse as I sought independence. One year, I had to make my displeasure known as the forecast called for enough snow that the grounds crew carried shovels instead of brooms.
“Dad,” I started hesitantly. “Would you mind if maybe I took a rain check for opening day and maybe we could go to a game together in, say, July?”
Dad looked at me with a long, blank stare. I couldn’t read him. Then he spoke.
“Thank God,” he muttered. “I didn’t want to disappoint you, but I’m getting too old for this.”
“I’ve never liked opening day,” I said with a fear I might have nullified an important ongoing memory and time-honored tradition.
“Neither have I,” he said. “I wish you would have told me that 10 years ago. I’m cold just thinking about it.”
— David Frabotta, Senior Editor