Opening Day should be a national holiday in my opinion.
For me and my wife, it has been for the last 17 years.
This would have been my 20th consecutive opening day game and 17th with my lovely bride. I tried to count up the number of opening days I have attended over my lifetime. The best guess I can come up with is somewhere around thirty.
Kathy and I started dating in 2002 and were married in June of 2003. As you grow in a relationship, there are different quirks and nuances that take some getting used to. I told her that I was a die-hard sports fan and that the Rangers were my passion. She understood that I didn’t expect her to become a baseball fan, but knew that the Ranger game would be on every night. Oh, and I always go to Opening Day. Little did I know that her passion would equal mine.
Being credentialed media might have thrown a wrench in our streak. However, I promised her that Opening Day was reserved for us and my Aunt and Uncle. (They are our Ranger Opening Day partners) Each year they travel from Hobbs, New Mexico to attend the first home game of the season. It’s a tradition!
We had our tickets and were ready to go. Getting credentials for the Opening Day hadn’t even crossed my mind. Kathy and I had attended spring training for the very first time, and we were ready for the season to begin. Gary and Sylvia (Aunt & Uncle) had their days off and were ready to join us. Then COVID-19 hit. The first call I made was worrisome. “Do you think they will cancel Opening Day?” My uncle was as worried as I was. The second, third, and fourth calls were solemn. “Can we get our money back”? No worries, we did.
When word came down that there would be no fans, we knew that 2021 would be when we continued the streak. Then I did something I hadn’t imagined.
I put in for Opening Day credentials. No wife and no family meant things would be different for sure. This is how it went.
Mindy the wonder pup wakes me up to go outside and eat. I normally try to make her wait until at least 7 so I get some extra sleep. But I am anxious. It is after all Opening Day. I make my cup of coffee and let my wife sleep a bit longer before our morning walk. This is not a great day for her. She is jealous that I get to go to the game, but understands that I would be going with her had circumstances been better.
Kat and I take Mindy on our morning walk. We are both in the process of trying to slim down a bit for our daughter’s wedding. I am actually fat, Kat just wants to fit in a smaller dress. We love our walks, but there is a bit of tension. She knows when I leave for work, I won’t get home until after she is in bed. She has even contemplated going to Texas Live to watch the game. Opening Day is our day for the last 17 years and she is not a fan of what COVID has done to it. But she is a trooper and presses on.
Kathy kisses me goodbye as she settles into her home office and prepares for her day. I am out the door headed for my office in Duncanville, TX. I don’t expect to get much done.
I arrive at work. Yeah – I’m worthless. My mind is not on work but rather what time I should leave for the park. I do happen to put one management agreement together and explain what it entails to a new client (I am in real estate and property management, plus I own an investment company).
Today I am a writer for the most part. My thoughts are on getting to the stadium and setting up. I have been to intrasquad games and one of the exhibition games. But I am wondering how Opening Day will be different.
The media entrance opened at 3 p.m. I head towards the park to get situated. There is some small traffic on 360 coming from Duncanville, but I arrive just a little after three. My temperature is 98, I am allowed in the door and on the elevator. This is so different from the last seventeen years. Normally we are in the stadium checking out the new apparel and testing out the malted beverage situation. But we live in the world of 2020 COVID.
I reach my designated location for Dallas Sports Nation. Plugin the laptop, get out my codebook and set up my station. TR Sullivan from MLB says hi. Then I try and find an angle that allows me to take a photo of the doppelgängers in the stands.
This is the best I can do. We are not allowed to leave the press box at all. So I can’t get the picture from the center field or down the third baseline. But I know that it will be on the pre-game show.
We do a zoom call with Jon Daniel and then pitcher Kyle Gibson. Gibson leads the charge for the video that the players put out for social justice. During batting practice, they wear a t-shirt with a Martin Luther King Jr quote on the back. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. Awesome!! Still, this is weird.
There is usually a buzz over the stadium with thousands of people clamoring about. Now there are writers wearing masks and heads buried in their laptops. Don’t get me wrong, I am elated to be here for the first game of the season. But it’s much more fun with fans. Players all agree. Now………. we wait for the first pitch.
First pitch and we are underway. Lance Lynn throws a strike to David Dahl to start the game. Both starters prove why they are aces as the game progresses. Colorado’s German Marquez had a no-hitter through 5. Then in the sixth Danny Santana doubles with one out and Rougned Odor doubles him home. Turns out that was all the Rangers needed. Lance Lynn ends up throwing 6 innings, 108 pitches, and struck out 9. Only the fourth time an opening day starter has had 9 strikeouts as a Ranger. Jesse Chavez took the 7th, Jonathan Hernandez took the 8th and Jose Leclerc closed it out. It was almost like Woody scripted it.
Oh…. and Leody Taveras made his major league debut as a defensive replacement in the 9th. That was far and away from the best defensive outfield this team can put out there. Danny Santana in left, Taveras in the center and Joey Gallo in right.
We just finished our interviews with manager Chris Woodward, Lance Lynn and Ranger hero Rougned Odor. This is not the Opening Day I envisioned. But if my sweetie can’t go with me, then I guess it will do. Hey, unlike most Rangers fans, I was in the building.
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