In the past eight years, Major League Baseball has opened its season three times in Japan. Once was a curiosity, twice proved it wasn’t a fluke, and the third time created a pattern. A pattern that needs to stop. Although I am far from a xenophobe and I actually enjoyed watching the Red Sox and A’s while eating breakfast the last two mornings, baseball needs to stop trivializing Opening Day.
Few days of the baseball season have as much mystique as Opening Day. Perhaps you can compare it to a playoff match-up or a classic pitchers’ duel, but Opening Day is more than that. It is a day when every team is in first place and every team has a chance. It is a day when kids are expected to skip school and be seen at the ballpark. A day when grown men get giddy and develop odd medical ailments such as “anal glaucoma”. It is a day when, as the old saying goes, “hope springs eternal”.
During almost half of the past eight years however, Opening Day has been a sham, sacrificed to corporate interests and slaughtered on the altar of baseball’s globalization agenda.
As Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out, before moving Opening Day to Japan, baseball season would traditionally open in Cincinnati. According to Bisher, “it became a custom that every major-league season opened in Cincinnati. Nobody played before the Red Stockings, now shortened to Reds. It was just that way.” Although the merits of Bisher’s argument about baseball in Japan are flimsy at best, I wholeheartedly agree with his point that Opening Day should keep its Cincinnati tradition.
My idea would be to start every season on the Sunday closest to April 1st. Games would then be organized as they are on every Sunday in the NFL, with of course, one exception. Whereas a majority of the east coast teams would start at 1 pm, the Reds would kick off the season a half hour before, at 12:30. As with the NFL, west coast-based teams would begin at 4 pm, and a nationally-televised game would begin at 7 pm. Every team would begin their season on the same day, no exceptions.
Contrary to the opinion of Mr. Bisher, baseball can still be played overseas, even in Japan. I would love to see more games during the season in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and other locations throughout Latin America (Venezuela perhaps?). Maybe even a game in London. But the first day of America’s Pastime? That should stay in America.