America’s favorite pastime is back! Opening day has arrived and the long-awaited sounds of baseball are finally upon us. For some, it is the ceremonial first pitch, the sound of the ball coming off the bat, the pitcher commanding the strike zone or the excitement from watching the catcher block a ball or throw a runner out. For others, it is seeing an infielder make a diving play and turning two or watching an outfielder track a ball down to steal a hit from the opposing team. While others relish aggressive baserunning, as they cheer on players using their quickness to turn a stolen base into two. Not to mention, the ever-changing walk out songs that fans quickly learn and sing along as their favorite batters step up to the plate. Perhaps it is the contagious cheers coming from the stands, as fans support their home team, or the many routines that players perform out of respect for their numerous superstitions. It is something different for everyone. The game of baseball provides so much, but it is the love of the game that will forever bond us all.
This year, due to COVID-19, the game will look differently for each team. At some schools, entire families will be allowed to come and cheer their loved ones on, while others will be limited to 2 guests per player. Fans will be allowed at some parks, limited at others and forbidden at many as well. The dugouts will go from being a place of high fives, bear hugs and fun filled rituals aimed to keep the energy alive for their team. To players that are spaced out, masks worn when not playing, limited travel rosters, and discouraged dogpiles after a big win. Sadly, the time-honored tradition, where opposing teams meet in the middle of the field after a hard-fought game to shake hands, displaying the utmost respect for the game and good sportsmanship towards their opponents, will greatly be missed.
The locker rooms will go from the players sanctuary; where they celebrate victories, grow together in defeat, share laughs, tears, harmless banter and fortify their brotherhood, to a place where they have allotted times and designated groups to enter and leave, with bare minimums being put in place. Bus trips will now be assigned seating and masks will be required while traveling, weekly testing will take place, in which any player is subject to miss several games if they test positive and others will miss for being in contact with them, even if all are asymptomatic. The after-game meals and team gatherings will be limited, social interactions outside of baseball will continue to be scrutinized and their new “normal” will be something you could not have imagined nearly a year ago.
I often wonder, years from now, what will be said about these times and the repercussions that that it has created. Many players were impacted by limited recruiting opportunities, draft numbers downsized and budgeted team cuts that ended careers. Each of these will leave a million ‘what ifs’ to contend with. The journey to be a great baseball player is beyond challenging, without adding the Corona virus into the equation. Players invest countless hours training their skill set, conditioning their bodies, overcoming injuries and soreness and being physically and mentally challenged every day by a game that is played by the humble or the soon to humbled. With all this being said, it has never been truer than it is today, that it is all WORTH IT. To the coaches, that have invested their lives and the players that have given their hearts and soul to play the game they have loved since childhood another day.
So no matter what the obstacles may be this year, we must never forget the upside of Baseball. These players are resilient, and adversity makes them better humans. The lessons learned during training and competition go well beyond the baseball field. In addition, baseball creates a brotherhood that will lead to lifelong friendships, best men in weddings, yearly golfing outings with old teammates and life lessons and memories that will be passed down to future generations. This is one of the best times in their lives, playing one of the best games ever created and it is a privilege, never to be confused with a right! Moving forward, every game played will have a new appreciation and a much-needed sense of urgency to make each day count.
So as the clock counts down to game time, we at Sport Fuels Life, encourage you to cheer relentlessly for your home team and celebrate the players as they put on their uniforms, lace up their cleats and take to the field, in order to honor their coaches, teammates, families and communities. They play as a team and strive to become a CHAMPION, not only in the game of baseball but in the game of LIFE!
In honor of collegiate baseball starting up, the staff at Sport Fuels Life would like to send our best wishes to baseball programs all over the country. In addition, we are excited to share quotes from several prestigious coaches and scouts, whom have made a huge impact in this game, on what opening day and this season means to them.
“Opening day is always special! Knowing the season is here and the excitement it brings has us all ready to go. This seasons’ opening day brings even greater excitement as we have all have faced so many challenges and have had so much of the game taken from us! It seems like forever since our last game March 11, 2020!
With all the unknowns of what’s to come, Opening day, I imagine will let us all forget our troubles for 9 innings!
Mike Kennedy - Head Baseball Coach Elon University
“2021 is is going to be a special season! The excitement around our players and staff is something that I can’t even put into words, February 19th can’t get here soon enough! Opening Day is always a special day, but this year is different. Having the game taken from all of us a little less than a year ago, and now returning, puts a different spin on 2021.”
Jim Chester - Head Baseball Coach Gardner-Webb University
“Opening day at all levels of baseball is a special day. This year it will bring a greater significance due to how our season ended in 2020. The anticipation, excitement, and energy our players and coaches have is exciting. Opening day in 2021 will mark the opportunity for our players to begin chasing dreams again.”
Billy Godwin – Head Coach UNCG
“Come this Friday it will have been 344 days since our last ballgame. I couldn't be more excited about this opening day or more proud of our players for the flexibility, resilience and dedication that they have shown this past 11+ months. When you lose something of great value you tend to appreciate it more. Every single game we play this year will be cherished.”
Head Coach Wake Forest University
“Opening Day is a combination of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for a coach and scout. The anticipation of the big weekend and start of a new year”
Neil Avent – Area Scout Oakland Athletics
“I love opening day because that term belongs to baseball. When someone mentions opening day everyone knows they are referring to baseball. “Opening Day” brings every person to a certain place or time in their life. It’s the most feel good day of the year. Everyone and everything is reset and for one day every player and team is on par with one another. It’s literally a symbol of a fresh start.” – Rob Watt – Head Coach – Mt. Olive University
“As a scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks, I excitedly await the start of a traditional baseball season in 2021. The Dbacks take great pride in providing a competitive major league team and a wholesomely entertaining fan experience. As scouts we drive the extra mile, scout the extra game, and write the extra report to initially procure the players who will one day make up that team. A joyful part of performing our job is seeing young players enjoy playing, competing and pursuing their dream of becoming a major league player. I am very thankful that they will soon again be able to do so in a more normal manner than has been the case during the pandemic, so we will be able to scout in the manner we are accustomed to and is so fulfilling. There is no greater place to be than at the ballpark, and I look forward to seeing all the diverse groups of people that share the common bond of love of the game able to go again Play Ball America!”
George Swain – Scout Arizona Diamondbacks
"Opening Day is always full of excitement and energy. I still get chills every time I put the uniform on but ultimately as coaches it's time to see if we have prepared ours players to handle the ups and downs of the game. The smiles you see when your players are successful and having fun playing are priceless. Rule #1 Have Fun #2 Beat the game. "
Robbie Allen - Head Coach Brunswick Community College
People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.Rogers Hornsby
You always get a special kick on opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.Joe Dimaggio
There's nothing like Opening Day. There's nothing like the start of a new season.George Brett