Lamenting what should have been a glorious home opener

When opening day came and went last week with no baseball, we all shed a tear and wondered when we'll finally get a chance to celebrate the most glorious unofficial holiday on the North American calendar. In the week since, we've mostly turned our attention back to the far more important matter affecting the entire globe right now, the ramifications of which are just now really setting in for many here.

We know instinctively that the Major League Baseball season should be a week old now, and we've seen various simulations suggesting what might've taken place had the games proceeded as scheduled. (For those who are wondering: The Nationals, according to Strat-O-Matic's computer simulation, are 3-3 after taking two of three at Citi Field but then dropping two of three at Marlins Park. Offense appears to be an issue; they've scored 18 total runs in six games.)

Today, though, presents another opportunity to pause and shed another tear, at least here in the D.C. area. Because today should've been the Nats' home opener. And this would've been a home opener unlike any in franchise history.

Parade-Martinez-Soto-No.-1-sidebar.jpgShortly before the scheduled 1:05 p.m. first pitch against the Mets, a packed house on South Capitol Street would have seen the Nationals unveil their first World Series banner. The championship rings would have been presented Saturday before the second game of the series.

It would've been glorious.

Now? Well, we don't know when it's going to happen. It will happen eventually, whenever the Nationals finally play their next home game, whether sometime this summer or (gulp) in 2021. And it'll still make for a wonderful moment, maybe even more so given the extra emotion that will be attached to the return of baseball after the unexpected hiatus.

But we're going to have to wait a while for it. And, if we're being honest, we really don't know what it's going to look like at that point.

With each passing day, it's getting tougher and tougher to envision a full-scale return to normal life with mass gatherings at sporting events. At least, a full-scale return that takes place in unison across the country.

It's probably going to have to be more gradual than that. Maybe some cities are ready to resume before others. Maybe games have to be played in empty ballparks before they can re-open to fans.

If that's the eventual scenario, how will it work for the Nationals? Would they still celebrate their championship before the home opener, even if the park is empty?

"I don't want to raise a banner without fans," Davey Martinez said way back on March 11, when the possibility of such a thing was raised for the first time but still felt kind of ludicrous to suggest.

You've got to believe the Nationals would agree with their skipper on that point. If the season really does have to start before fans are allowed in, you would hope they'd hold off on the celebratory stuff until there are 40,000 folks gathered together to share in the experience.

But again, it's impossible to predict these things at this moment. As much as we want to know how this is all going to play out, there's just no way to know with any certainty. Will the season be 140 games? Or 100 games? Or 81 games? Will there be a bunch of scheduled doubleheaders? No All-Star break? A regular season that stretches all the way until Halloween? A postseason that runs into Thanksgiving and is played at a neutral, warm-weather site?

It's still too soon to have a clue.

For now, all we can do is continue to keep ourselves indoors and separated from others, lament the fact we can't gather today for the home opener and keep our fingers crossed we will get the chance to experience it before the 2019 season fades away too far from our memory banks.

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