It is the most special time of the year. I'm not talking about Christmas, or even the Super Bowl. The real best day of the year is almost upon us. Spring training is almost over and the new Major League Baseball season is set to begin. Opening Day comes even earlier this year - on March 30th - and baseball fans around the world will be looking forward to that first pitch, with an air of magic and wonder.
There really is nothing like Opening Day. Of all the major sports in the US, only baseball attracts such anticipation of that first afternoon of the season. Maybe it is something to do with it coinciding with the start of spring. A new season brings new hope and new life - just like spring bringing us out of our winter slump.
MLB betting will be well underway by now, with fans of each of the 30 teams believing that this could be the year that theirs goes all the way and wins the World Series in the fall. For many those hopes will swiftly disappear over the next few months. But, on Opening Day, we are all still full of hope.
Baseball is the ultimate traditionalist's game. It is the oldest league in the country and two words sum up the attraction perfectly - tradition and history. This year sees the introduction of the pitch clock of course. One of the aspects of baseball that made it different from all the others trying to change with the times was the absence of a hurry up prompt. It is a shame that pitch clocks will now be in baseball too - but the fans will soon accept them as part of the game and continue to enjoy the traditions that have endured.
There will be the Findlay Market Parade in Cincinnati, celebrating baseball in the city longer than anywhere else, as well as countless other smaller, more personal family traditions. It may not be the favorite sport in the country these days, but it still is America's pastime. It used to be said that baseball served as a bonding element for father and son. But take a look at any crowd these days and you will see that mothers and daughters are also just as keen to get in on the action.
Football might get fans excited for 17 or so weeks of the year but baseball has the devoted hooked for 162 games. That is an incredible amount of the year taken up with this beautiful sport. Those people unlucky to not have been romanced by this sport use those kinds of facts as reasons not to like it. But those in the know relish every one of the 162 games. The Opening Day may be full of hope, but even a long season is enjoyed.
The closest another sport comes to baseball in the devotion to history, tradition, statistics and long drawn out games, is probably cricket. There too, fans eagerly await that first day of the season and consult their trusty annuals full of records and statistics. But there seems to be more desire to change in the cricket world - something that has been largely shunned by baseball's romantic followers.
Even the parity of the game is something that allows for more hope, more optimism. Since the turn of the millennium, no team has won back-to-back championships. Sure, some teams like the Astros and Dodgers have featured in the World Series more than others, but there have been drought-ending triumphs for the Red Sox, Cubs and White Sox too. No other sport has seen more champions in the last 20 years - and the length of the season and small number of playoff spots, almost assures that trend can continue.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. At this moment, anything can happen. The anticipation is one of hope and wonder. This time of year means anything is possible - and the baseball season is the perfect example of that.