The wave of nostalgia and sentimentality that comes with Major League Baseball’s Opening Day strikes that much more true upon a national chord.
In the 266 days since Daniel Hudson struck out Michael Brantley to deliver the Washington Nationals their first-ever World Series title, America and its national pastime have been battered, beaten, besmirched.
The Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal rocked Major League Baseball to its very core, providing the game with its largest impropriety since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
It called to question the integrity of baseball while smearing the names of some of the game’s biggest stars.
Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired. Alex Cora was fired. Carlos Beltran — who secured the New York Mets’ managerial job just three months earlier — was fired.
Yet it all became trivial in March when baseball canceled spring training, Opening Day was postponed, and the sporting world stopped.
We were forced inside — into our close rooms. Our friends and neighbors began to grow ill. We lost loved ones.
In the streets, civil unrest grew as the issue of police brutality against Black Americans once again barreled its way to the national forefront.
Peaceful protests descended into violent riots when the sun went down. Police clashed with demonstrators. Cities burned.
In the nation’s capital, our government plays the blame game, pointing fingers in an attempt to deflect why over 145,000 people have died from the coronavirus, why a country is so angry, so filled with rage, hate.
All the while, Americans begged for baseball to return — only to be placed in the middle of ruthless, ineffective negotiations between the league and the players’ union. Over a month of potential play was lost as the two sides squabbled over a fistful of dollars.
But it’s there in Washington D.C. that Americans are getting a first real shred of normalcy back in their lives as the Yankees and Nationals kick off the truncated, 60-game, 2020 MLB season.
But it’s imperative to understand that at the root of this — looking past politics, greedy owners, overpriced players — is the fact that baseball, at its core, is once again helping us heal.
Baseball was there for us through two World Wars.
Baseball was there for us when Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy were assassinated; when riots about civil rights and the Vietnam War broke out in 1968.
Baseball was there for us after September 11, 2001.
Baseball is here for us now.
At least for a few hours each summer night — whether you’re sitting around the television or listening to a game on the radio in the backyard, we have something to smile about.
Baseball, we missed you. Welcome back