I think it’s easy for those of you who spend your lives caring for athletic fields to underestimate how important your contributions are to the rest of us who are the beneficiaries of your work—whether it be as a player or a spectator.
As I write this, spring training is underway, and in just a couple of weeks it will be the day many of us wait for all winter—opening day. (I don’t even have to mention the specific sport. “Opening day” can only mean one thing: baseball.) It has been a particularly long and snowy winter up here in the Northeast (today, the first day of spring, there’s around 3 feet of snow on the ground and the forecast calls for another 3 to 6 inches today).
The season doesn’t shift on the first day of spring. It’s not the melting of the snow or the crocuses pushing their way up through the dirt in my backyard. It’s opening day that marks the end of winter and a new season, bringing the promise of sunshine and warm nights.
Opening day brings the memories of childhood—that first ballgame; playing catch with your dad; pickup games on a hot summer day; your baseball glove hung on the handlebars of your bike; the time you were the one who made the big catch that saved the game (or the time you didn’t).
Opening day also brings feelings of hope for the future. It represents a short time when anything is possible. Any team has a chance to make it to the World Series or the state championship. Any player has the chance to excel and feel the appreciation of the fans and his teammates; to go from player to “star.”
But the magic of opening day is not about the players. Sure, it’s great to see them all again, but the players are interchangeable from team to team. They come and go.
Everything that opening day represents is embodied in the field. It’s the grass. It makes no difference if it’s Fenway Park or the local high school. The magic of a new season’s beginning is all about the field. It’s the feeling you get as a player, running onto the field for the first game of the season. It’s the feeling you get as a spectator, walking into the ballpark and seeing the field reveal itself before your eyes.
Opening day is about memories of the past and a promise for the future, and all of it is tied directly to the field. Your field.
Let’s play ball.