For 40 consecutive years, starting back on April 17, 1980, I have attended the San Francisco Giants home opener.
I had tickets for #41 on April 3. That game never happened. COVID-19 caused the season to be postponed until less than a week ago, when the Giants met the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Today is (as I write this) the home opener for the Giants, who will host the Padres tonight. I won't be there ... the 40-year streak is over ... no fans will be there, since one of the differences of baseball post-COVID is that no fans are allowed in stadiums for the foreseeable future.
I admit it was fun watching baseball again when the Giants and Dodgers met last Thursday, and if tonight's game is played, I'll be checking it out. But the idea of a baseball season during a pandemic is a dumb one, as Major League Baseball is finding out. One team, the Miami Marlins, had to postpone games after at least 11 players and 2 coaches tested positive for the virus. This has already had an effect on other teams ... yesterday, two games were postponed for COVID/Marlins reasons, at least one is postponed today.
Some players have opted out of returning to the field this season, including Giants icon Buster Posey. Five-time all-star and former Cy Young award winner David Price also stepped back, and when the Marlins outbreak occurred, Price went to Twitter. "Now we REALLY get to see if MLB is going to put players health first. Remember when [baseball commissioner Rob] Manfred said players health was PARAMOUNT?! Part of the reason I’m at home right now is because players health wasn’t being put first. I can see that hasn’t changed."
Thus far, in the few games that have been played, we've seen seats filled with cardboard cutouts of people (you can get in on the action in San Francisco for $99). Hunter Pence of the Giants, when announced before the opening game in LA, doffed his cap to the "fans". Star first-baseman Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs had hand sanitizer in his back pocket, and the first time the opposing Brewers got a man on first, Rizzo offered the runner some of the sanitizer.
Perhaps my favorite moment came during the Oakland A's home opener. MLB has decided to change the rules ("temporarily") to keep games from going too long. If a game goes to extra innings, the batting team gets to automatically have a runner on second. It's really stupid. The A's and Angels were the first teams to meet this new rule, when they were tied 3-3 after 9 innings. Before hand, there had been a lot of discussion about possible strategies teams might use in these situations. Put a fast guy on second, play small ball to get that runner across the plate, all sorts of possibilities. Well, the Angels couldn't score in their half of the 10th (their automatic runner was promptly removed from the bases on a rundown). Things went differently for the A's. Their first batter was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch moved runners to 2nd and 3rd. Another batter was walked to load the bases. The Angels brought in a new pitcher. On the first pitch, Matt Olson hit the ball 427 feet over the fence for a game-ending, walk-off grand slam. So much for small ball.
The A's players reacted like, well, like humans (who could predict that?). They stormed the field to greet Olson as he crossed the plate. You couldn't blame them, but it was a sight you'd rather not see during a pandemic:
So tonight, the Giants will finally play the home opener that was supposed to happen in April. I don't have tickets ... at least I got my money back. I've been perhaps too paranoid during the quarantine ... I'm someone with a lot of those existing medical conditions that are warning signs (it doesn't help that I turned 67 last month), so when I went to do some blood tests last week, it marked the first time I'd gone anywhere in more than four months.
How will I pass the time on my first Opening Day at home in 41 years? It makes a certain circular sense ... the last time I went out before those blood tests was on a Tuesday in March, when we saw our last "Geezer Cinema" movie in a theater (it was Emma.). Today being Tuesday, we'll be at home, watching the 20th at-home edition of Geezer Cinema. Here's the previews for today's movie (it's my turn to pick). It has the legendary Brian Dennehy, who died last April.
Finally ... why not? Perhaps the best Opening Day moment of those 40 years, in 2002, when Barry Bonds came up in extra innings against the Padres: