Opening day is the equivalent of Christmas morning to baseball fans. Every team has new gifts waiting to be unwrapped by fans. There are new players, new coaches, new managers, yet it’s all to accomplish the same thing… winning the championship title. It’s all for the love of the game.
Opening day holds a lot of weight to me. Aside from the fact that I get to welcome back my boys in pinstripes and look somewhat normal now wearing all my Yankee gear, it’s a symbolic day.
My grandfather had quite an influence on my life, especially when it came to the Yankees and baseball. Being he lived in Florida, the Yankees were not the home team and the hype is obviously nothing like it is in New York. So, every opening day would begin with a phone call either to or from him. These phone calls were full of predictions, lots of “did you know?” news, and a ton of bragging about how wonderful my future husband is (Derek Jeter).
In 2011, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was the middle of March, and obviously my family was heartbroken. Everyone was able to get on the phone and talk to him, but I couldn’t do it. This was the first person I was close to in my life that had been diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t handle it, especially because it was my grandfather.
I knew him and my grandmother were going to be spending a month in New York that June, but still I had to get on the phone before that. It was opening day when I called my grandpa. Though my voice cracked as I tried tip-toeing around the inevitable truth that would change everything, one thing remained the same. Our baseball discussion. Our opening day gossip.
As we started talking about our predictions for the season, my grandpa started sharing old memories he had from when he was a kid idolizing Joe DiMaggio. I heard his voice crack through the line as he explained to me how “Joey D” was his favorite Yankee. And although I was a mess on my end of the phone, I remember somehow smiling because I recognized what a dedicated fan my grandpa was.
My grandpa passed away that August, and how fitting that the day he ascended into Heaven to meet Yankee greats, the Yankees had an off day. Knowing my grandpa, I’m sure upon meeting Yankee legends in Heaven, he told them his thoughts on their career, and what they could have done to win that one game that he still remembered they lost.
Opening day in 2012 was rough. It was the first opening day I didn’t have my grandfather to call. Though my sister, another huge Yankee fan, said I could call her instead, it wasn’t the same. For a little while I felt like I shouldn’t be as excited anymore. I felt like opening day shouldn’t mean as much to me anymore because it was different for me now. It was an opening day without the “Baseball Encyclopedia” which I called Poppie. But, I know my grandpa got a kick out of what diehard fans his granddaughters and daughters were, and instead I just changed my outlook.
Opening day is more than just the beginning of the baseball season for me. Now it has become a day that directly represents my Poppie and the bond we shared over baseball.
Today, as the Yankees open up in the Bronx, I know my Poppie has the best seat in the house. I can only imagine which Yankee greats he’s sitting next to and critiquing the game with.
Happy Opening Day!