I'll be busy the next few days as spring (finally) comes around. Whereas it's been in the low '80s (perfect weather, in my opinion), today it's about 20 degrees cooler and tonight we even have some damn frost warning or something. However, the arrival of spring is not gauged by the introduction of warmer breezes nor even by the deluge of pollen from all the flowering dogwoods: instead, the true arrival of spring is measured by the opening day of the baseball season.
And not the pros anymore, unfortunately, but the minor league teams in contrast. Maybe I'm haunted by the memory of my dear Dad trying in vain to show me how to throw a slider (Dad was a pitcher for many, many years of his life and baseball was his first love by far), but there's something just almost comforting about hearing a baseball be slapped around from leather mitt to mitt, something just nostalgic about the hot dog vendors selling their wares up and down the aisles, something just familial with the between-inning activities with young kids and the team mascot. And, at the minor leagues at least, a regular person can still afford to see a game. Unlike the majors, where ticket prices, attitudes, and drug scandals have alienated some new and old baseball fans alike, the minor league games still hold the promise the youth and the allure of what professional baseball once was. I haven't had an affiliation with any professional baseball team (well, with the exception of the long-suffering Chicago Cubs, but that's my sadomasochistic side coming through) since I was a child; however I follow, and take great pride in, the local minor league teams. (And yes, guys, there are plenty of single and smart women who understand and follow baseball. Come check it out yourself in person, if you dare.) My Dad was one of those woefully underpaid lads once, and he chased his dream as far as it (and his shoulder) could go. But we all need to support the people who lay it on the line and still aren't afraid to go chase their dreams, as so many of us don't anymore. Some will make it to 'The Show', and most will not...but you have to support those who know the odds and try anyway.
So tonight, as it's become a bit of a tradition in memory of my late father, I'm heading out to the season opener for the local Triple A affiliate team, The Durham Bulls. (Yes, film fans, this is the same team featured and filmed in the Susan Sarandon/Kevin Costner classic "Bull Durham", but the team changed to a more modern stadium...to what is now called the DBAP...a few years back. The far more homey DAP, with its wooden bleachers, great acoustics, and hard-carved graffiti from lovers generations back, still stands, though, and plenty of us 'old school' fans prefer that venue. Unfortunately for the DAP and fortunately for The Bulls, the number of fans necessitated a move to the larger and more modern-outfitted park.) The game tonight is against the Syracuse Chiefs and starts at 7pm. Tickets are still available online here or at the gate, and they start at an affordable $6.
And for those that can't make it to this side of the Triangle, the Double A farm team for the Florida Marlins, The Carolina Mudcats, have their season opener over in Zebulon on April 16 against the Mobile BayBears. Go here for more information on the Mudcats' opener. They do a great job over there, too, and it's a fabulous place for a family outing.
Update April 6: after what must have been one of my stupidest moves in awhile, I was running late to the game from work and didn't stop to get additional clothing (i.e., socks, a heavier jacket, oh, and maybe a full-length insulated parka)...in some sort of delusion that the cold weather surely would not hit a season opener. I was horribly wrong. Earlier this week, we were in the 80's and people were out and about in summer clothing. Thursday night, I froze in the bleachers as the winds went from mild to strong, and by the end of the game, were gusty and strong and from the northeast. And it was a whopping 45 degrees F. To cap it off, although the Bulls took an early lead, they ended up losing 2-1 in the final innings...not that too many people made it through to the end due to the cold. You know it's cold when the seventh inning stretch is marred not by people cheering while standing up, but by the sounds of their teeth chattering instead.