It was Christmas morning, 2016, and Anna Grace, 7, and Macy Coll, 5, were forcefully shaking my leg to wake me up. It was time to see what Santa had delivered. We suspected that he had favorably judged their behavior over the past year—some of us were more certain than others. Fortunately, he had, and it was a wonderful and magical Christmas morning for all.
Christmas ranks up there as one of the best days of the year for the Coll family. It is perhaps the best day, rivaled only by birthdays and anniversaries.
Slightly less universally celebrated, but nevertheless beloved by the oldest and some say wisest of the Colls—OK, one person says—is the opening day of baseball season.
A few days ago, I made my way out to Pete Taylor Park for the start of the 2017 Southern Miss baseball season. And our Eagles did not disappoint by winning that night, and then again on Saturday, before coming back from a 7-run deficit on Sunday. The sweep of the Northeastern Huskies was a solid start to a season that brings with it hopes of another Conference-USA Championship and long postseason run.
It is true that I have been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. While I preferred to participate in other sports, my mathematically oriented brain gravitated to statistics, and I immersed myself in box scores and the seemingly endless ways in which performance on the diamond is measured. I still appreciate the simplicity of a hitter’s line on the day—number of at-bats, runs scored, hits, and runs driven home. It seems to be as fair, honest, and as public a measurement of performance on a given day as any. Many of us use more subjective tools to measure productivity in our work, and some go home in the evening with no real sense of how well they did or did not do. Not in baseball, though. Go 0-for-4, and you feel like a bum. But go 4-for-4, and you feel like a hero.
To be sure, I am a fan of other sports, as well as the outstanding performers in our wonderful arts programs at The University of Southern Mississippi. I am amazed by talent, regardless of area of expertise. Nevertheless, baseball holds a special place in my heart and mind. I'm not even sure what I love about it most. Perhaps it is because it is a sign spring is near. Or it may be the sights of beautifully manicured green grass and perfectly combed infield dirt. It could be the sounds of the catcher's mitt popping, and even the car horns after a home run that would be angering under any other circumstance. It's probably the smells coming from the grills in the Right Field Roost.
Whatever it is, opening day is always a fresh start. It's everyone beginning at 0-0, and there is always hope that this could be the year—the best year.
Yep, the hope is what I love about it best--that it's the beginning of a clean slate. Famed Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller said it best: “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again.” This is true on the baseball diamond and in life.
Who you were in the past, good or bad, is immaterial on opening day, and every day during baseball season. It's what you do today and in the future that matters. I love the possibility and the potential that months from now we'll look back and say opening day was the start of something special.
I love opening day.