I used to love Opening Day… I still do but there is a tinge of sadness that comes with it. Opening Day in Boston isn’t just the start of the baseball season, it’s a sign that spring really IS coming and the promise of a potentially great season that just might end with a parade running through the city in October. Now it reminds me of the week my father died. He LOVED baseball. LOVED IT. He was a WAY better fan than me, he watched every game, memorized stats, and talked about his favorite players from the past five decades. On game-days during the summer, he’d take his radio to the beach rather than miss any of the action.
He was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2011. In the age of Google & WebMD, you don’t have to be a genius to know his odds were pretty shitty. Words like “rare” and “aggressive” made a bad situation worse.
Through the winter of 2011-2012 my father talked about the upcoming Sox season, a lot. He’d MUCH rather talk about about baseball than cancer or chemotherapy. He dutifully watched their horrendous spring training, bitched about the new coach (the year of the dreadful Bobby Valentine experiment), and went on and on about the team being well on their way to a miserable season — before the season even started. He was actually right about that, we’d lost Theo Epstein, Terry Francona, and ended the season with just 69 wins and 93 loses.
April 2012, Opening Day was 48 hours away when he took a turn for the worse, to a place where he would linger for nearly a week, before dying. Opening Day that year, I sat by his bed, taking my best shot at being a baseball color analyst, describing every play and telling him how beautiful the ballpark looked. I like to think he could hear me, but who knows. We did that for the first few games of the year and then he was gone. Honestly, baseball has never been quite the same.
I wish I could program my mind to go back to Opening Day 2009 –before cancer creeped into my family– when I took my parents Fenway Park. They didn’t venture into the city often, but they did on this day. It was cold, but we had decent seats. That is the image that I WANT to pop in my head when I hear people talking about Opening Day, it’s not there yet, but I’m working on it.