For the love of sport: Baseball’s Opening Day

Today (well overnight to start with Australian team) is Major League Baseball’s Opening Day of the season. The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres aside (all who have played already), each team in the MLB kicked off a 162 game marathon with an eye on getting into the post season in October. Actually that is not entirely true, because some teams have goals not at all related to the post season but to improvement (yes they admit as much before the season starts) and reaching the fabled .500 mark.

All of that said, today is one of the great days in sport. 13 games staggered throughout the day in an orgy of baseball action for fans around the world. Some fans will be looking for a repeat of last year’s performances. Some fans will have expectations based on payroll, hype and history. Some fans will just be happy that their team is running around again.

I don’t think in Australia we appreciate the scale of America’s infatuation of with sport and in particular baseball. As I am from Queensland, it makes sense to compare what Queenslanders believe to the national sport, Rugby League, with America’s national pastime. That comparison though is really an apples and oranges scenario: in Rugby League some clubs can not get 10,000 to their games yet in the MLB there are a number clubs who have not had a spart seat in their stadium for year (not a stretch games but a stretch of years).

Take my team, the Chicago Cubs, for example: they have not won a World Series since 1908 (the year that rugby league started in NSW) and have not really challenged in the post season in a decade and yet over that decade they have had an average attendance for the 81 home games they play a year of 37,700 per game. That is in stadium with a capacity of 41,000. The missing seats there have all been sold by the way because every game is sold out at Wrigley Field. Compare that to say the Cronulla Sharks of the NRL: never won a title, not often competed in the finals series and I can not remember the last time they had a sell out crowd.

The scale is massively different as is the season. 162 games in roughly 180 days is nothing short of phenominal and for the fans nothing short of a buffet of sporting action that goes without compare.

I love baseball and started worshiping at its alter when I first picked up a bat in T-ball at aged 6. That was 30 years ago and my enthusiasm has not waned a bit. This morning I found myself, as with every baseball season since the invention of the smart phone, up early and watching scores of my beloved Cubs tick over before dawn (Australian time) and I, again, woke the neighbours with a string of invective when we gave up a game ending home run at the bottom of the 10th inning to the Pirates. Part of the love of the game and the baseball season is that there is always tomorrow for one’s team: for my team the chance to get the first W of the season is only 48 hours away (the Cubs have an off day tomorrow).

Only 161 games to go now until the post season.

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