Allstate Journal

MLB’s opening day is the best day of the year

Much of North America spent the last few months mired in a mucky malaise, with a brutal and bitter winter robbing the continent of most of its colors, blanketing the streets and trees and fields in snow. We suffered the bleak grey skies and dreary winter doldrums with too few distractions, the NFL season receding into foggy subconscious and a thrilling NCAA Tournament offering only brief respite from the miserable cabin fever that never seemed to relent. But now it’s baseball season. It’s baseball season! And baseball’s opening day is the best day of the year.usatsi_7860295_168380427_lowres

At 14 ballparks around the country on Monday, explosions of color will jolt fans to life, green grass and orange dirt and yellow foul poles and patriotic bunting blasting our eyes with vivid, high-definition beauty. Even the array of outfield advertisements on every home-run fence feel welcoming now, a rainbow of bright logos and slogans that indicate the coming — sooner than we can possibly imagine — of summer. Summer! It actually exists, believe it or not.

On opening day, everything is possible. Sure, maybe things look grim for the Phillies and Diamondbacks and Twins, and maybe the outlook appears brilliant for the Dodgers and Cardinals and Angels. And perhaps we feel confident Clayton Kershaw will take home another Cy Young Award, and the great Mike Trout another MVP. And the games all count, from this day until the end of October. No more spring training nonsense, dudes with jerseys in the high-90s replacing our heroes while their teammates run poles on the warning track. No more guessing, no more preseason hype. Now only hope remains. And because it’s baseball, and because we’ve all seen enough baseball now to know that strange things happen almost constantly, and because the sport has achieved some measure of parity despite even despite huge distinctions in payroll, we understand that every team stands some fighting chance of playing in the postseason, the paper predictions be damned.

Maybe some underdog team wins 110 games this season. Maybe some slugger smashes 100 home runs. Maybe a pitcher we never heard of develops new mechanics and dominates the Majors. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton improves at age 25 and powers the Marlins over the heavily favored Nationals in the NL East. Maybe Kris Bryant arrives in the big leagues in a couple of weeks and sets new standards for rookies. Maybe Madison Bumgarner’s every bit as awesome and durable as he looked in the postseason, and carries the Giants back to another championship — even in an odd year.