Back in mid-March, with MLB indefinitely postponed, I wrote about what it felt like to not have a full season for the first time in my baseball-watching life. Four months later, baseball has made its return—and I believe that to be a good thing.
That being said, there is certainly a feeling of strangeness that comes with a late-July Opening Day. That peculiar feeling can be summed up in a single word: rhythm. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.
When it comes to baseball, I have always felt that part of its appeal has been the way it seems to perfectly align with the seasons (especially in more weather-erratic climates such as Minnesota).
Here in the northern hinterlands, baseball arrives just as Minnesotans are digging out of the “white months”. After snow drifts, black ice, and whatever those car tire wintery goulashes are on which you sprain your foot, baseball represents hope that once again the great outdoors can be enjoyed rather than battled.
For two months (April & May), teams figure out what they are made of, then the final school bell rings, summer begins, and things start to heat up—literally and figuratively. Just when a break seems needed, the All-Star Game provides exactly that. Teams return from the midsummer classic and face the dog days of summer (July-August). In September, the NFL wants to take over, but then pennant races heat up. As the weather cools and the days grow shorter, a postseason under the lights provides a perfect coda to the whole experience.
This season, for the first time in my (or anyone’s) lifetime, that almost sacrosanct routine—much like the general population’s at work and at home—has been upended. More than anything, at least for me, that is why the start of the 2020 campaign seems so odd. Announcers broadcasting remotely, cardboard cutouts instead of fans, and the specter of the pandemic (opt-outs, COVID-19 list, etc.) I can handle. But an Opening Day in late July? A 60-game sprint instead of the 162-game marathon? A postseason expanded at the last minute? Those are things that take more getting used to. It just doesn’t “feel right” yet.
Perhaps all it will take is one Twins game to change my frame of mind. Such constants as Dick Bremer’s baritone, a biting curveball from Jose Berrios, Byron Buxton zooming across the outfield grass, or Max Kepler’s sweet swing might just pull me right back into the swing of things. I’m hoping that is the case, anyway. But like everything else in this crazy ‘20, it simply has to be “taken as it comes”.
Of course, it must always be remembered that “something is better than nothing”. A number of weeks ago, MLB reached a fork in negotiations that looked for all the world like it might thwart any meaningful games from being played. Fortunately, with little time left to spare, they heeded the sage advice of Yogi Berra about forks in the road and “took it”.
It has been a long and complicated journey to get to this point. Though it doesn’t yet feel exactly right, I’m ready to sit back, relax, and watch some Twins baseball, different as it may be. Maybe I’ll even try to look on the bright side: the hot dogs and drinks will certainly be cheaper.