The opening game of the season is all promise. Anything could happen. In the fall, at the end of another dismal season, baseball fans have been heard to vow: Wait'll next year! There was a time when that phrase was the unofficial motto of Brooklyn, N.Y., when it was still home to the Dodgers, dem bums.
Well, this could be next year in these parts. Which is why, every April, we the local devoted make it to the Arkansas Travelers' opener at their little jewel box of a retro stadium just across the river from Arkansas' statewide newspaper, one of the few left in the country whose circulation covers a whole state.
Spring is in the air here, and with it, hope. For a baseball fan, the year is divided into two parts: life and the off-season. The long winter is past, the endless summer awaits. Inside these friendly confines, time has been abolished. Here its passage is marked by innings, not minutes and hours. Theoretically a tied baseball game could go on forever, from here to eternity.
Life began again in these precincts at 6:10 p.m., April 5th, 2013, with the first pitch of the first game of the season, precisely 23 hours after the original opener the night before had been rained out. So the fans got a double-header. Which only heightened the anticipation, the underlying exhilaration as you walked through the gate.
All was new again. Yet familiar. You felt the same old intake of breath at the first sight of the diamond below. The grass was still winter-scruffy in the lengthening shadows of the dying day, but time will take care of that, day by day, rain by rain in these fecund latitudes.
It wasn't just the look of things opening night that revivified. I'd forgotten the sounds. You could close your eyes and see the game. Even before it began. Listen! To the rustle of the gathering crowd, like that of people filing into the Metropolitan Opera before the opening curtain. Hear the cries of the hawkers: Peanuts! Popcorn! Crackerjacks! and these days, Nachos! The sounds say it all: the crack of the bat, the thwack of the ball in the catcher's mitt, the first shouts of many to come, the strains of organ chords over the crackle of the public address system ... and you know just where you are. In America watching the American game.
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