For the first 25 years of my life, Major League Baseball's opening day was a romanticized fantasy played out in my head. It was an all-elusive game that one day I'd attend, though I didn't know when, where, why, or how. Growing up mere minutes from Wrigley Field was always such a tease, but I knew dad would never take us kids out of school for the game no matter how hard I begged. I'll also venture to guess that tickets to a Wrigley Field opening day game weren't exactly cheap even back in the early 1990s so there's that, too.
Long story short - I had never been to an opening day game until this past Monday and I'm glad it took me this long to get to one.
Opening day at Nationals Park was a baseball experience I'll never forget. I'll admit that I agree with Nationals manager Davey Johnson when I say that the pageantry, pomp, and circumstance of it all is a bit much, but I understand why the ceremonies and such are in place. With all the awards presented on Monday, it was as if we were at one of those high school sports award ceremonies that I used to attend with my sister, parents, teammates and coaches. It's that one time of year where you celebrate accomplishment openly in front of your colleagues and peers.
Beyond the imposed festivities though, this particular opening day was special given the context of the celebration at hand. It was mentioned in my opening day thoughts piece for We Love DC published on Tuesday, but it's worth rehashing here as well when I say that opening day 2013 was an ideal scenario for the Nats.
Coming off of a historic 2012 season, which was the most successful year in Nats history by far, is to me what was celebrated at Nationals Park on opening day this year. Well, I suppose it was a bit of that, and also the fact that the expectations for 2013 are high and people seem ready for the ride. But the fact is that given the context of the game, one in which Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper essentially previewed their matured skill sets and assured fans that they're not messing around and truly mean business moving forward, couldn't have been set up any better.
The payoff for me didn't come in the Nats 2-0 win, though that sweetened the deal. The payoff came the moment that gigantic American flag was billowing in the open outfield air while the ballpark, packed to its brim with a record-setting regular season crowd, sang the national anthem. The collective voice and the sight on the field was a dream come true to me, a lifelong baseball fan. I'm just glad I was there to witness this particular special occasion in Nats history. I look forward to being present for many more to come.
Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation's capital as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.