For the first time since 1984 I don’t really have any dogs in the hunt for major league baseball. Oh, I will still follow the adventures of the Astros and Rangers and Cubs and Reds, but whether any of them win a lot or not won’t have as much an effect on me.
I grew up rooting for the Reds as my primary favorite in central Indiana. I listened to a lot of Cubs day games on WGN during those days, too. The Reds were my team, but I paid a lot of attention to the Cubs. That was increased during the mid 70’s when among my other duties I hosted the Peoria version of the Cubs pre-game show prior to weekend telecasts. Boy, were the Cubs popular. They were getting over 60% of all Peoria televisions tuned to them for typical weekend games–the only ones WMBD-TV aired. We carried the St. Louis Cardinals on our radio station. Central Illinois was baseball crazy.
As for the Rangers and Astros they are direct results of my working on their telecasts. My first major league baseball work with with the Rangers. The Astros kept the string going, but I had actually worked two Astros games before I spent six or seven years in or around Texas. I had filled in for Jim Durham on two HSE telecasts in 1984. Nolan Ryan of the Astros faced Joe Price of the Reds in the first one. I was well prepared since I lived in Houston and knew the Astros and had been a Reds fan growing up and was still paying attention.
Over the years I have lived in Texas, starting with San Antonio in 1980, I have followed the Rangers and Astros. Living in Houston since 1982 and being part of the telecasts from 1995 through 2012 I naturally will pay attention to what is going on at Minute Maid Park even if DirecTV and the Astros never work out a deal.
The difference is that now I don’t have to “work” at following the club. If they change players during the season I have no immediate need to know anything about it. If Brett Wallace goes into a slump I won’t need to find out what he is doing. If I don’t see him play much (as a result of not having the Astros telecasts) or not making my way to MMP it won’t matter either. I can be a casual fan and not have following the club be my job. I can find out what happened with a few key strokes on my computer.
As a sports announcer retired (by default) I can spend time writing and trying to get that writing published while keeping my eyes and ears open for any chances to pick up free lance work doing what I have been doing professionally for the last 45 years. I can also write the occasional blog on topics that interest me without someone taking something the wrong way and getting upset by my opinions and honesty. I work for no one.
But regardless of personal status there is nothing like Opening Day in baseball. Winning or losing the first game has little effect on pennant races or even how well a club might do over the long haul. It is just one of 162 games. But the excitement of starting something new goes hand in hand with the excitement of spring arriving. This is far more true in the Northern part of the U.S. than here in Texas where, with the exception of North and Northwest Texas, the weather is mostly wonderful year round.
But Opening Day is still special. I have a personal gripe about the practice of playing home exhibition games in advance of the Opener. It takes some of the magic away. If the club is going to have to open the season on the road I have no problem. But when an exhibition game is followed the next day by the Opening Game I think it has been devalued..and much of the mystery is gone.
This year it will be nice to have Jim Deshaies around with the Cubs in Houston. His new job is the envy of many. For Houston fans just being able to stay in the National League is a big plus for JD. Oh some think the newness of moving to the American League is a positive. It is, sort of. But going to the A.L. West and so many late night road games is not a positive. With the exception of the Yankees all the two city or region teams have the National League team as the most popular. The Dodgers over the Angels, Giants over the A’s and Cubs over the White Sox. They are not always the most successful, but popularity has always been with the N.L. team who also routinely have out drawn their A.L. neighbors.
Fans will adjust to the league change just as they will to the use of the designated hitter. If the American League Astros ultimately become better than the National League Astros ever were that would make the city’s N.L. history just a foot note. It is, however, a long way from that day.
If baseball fans are robbed of anything it is the lack of the National League anywhere close to such a large state as Texas. Too bad New Orleans or San Antonio are not sufficiently ready to go after major league clubs. One of them could bring the N.L. banner back within range for fans to see some games.
But all of that is just talk and speculation and has nothing to do with what is special. And that is Opening Day… Sunday March 31, 2013. That is what really counts.