With Super Bowl stories finishing their turn passing through the headlines, very few eyes are on the baseball happenings. The NFL simply owns the first week of February. Nothing in hockey, basketball, or baseball can compare to the big game or its aftermath. Rather than looking at who’s avoiding salary arbitration in the MLB, most sports fans are busy drooling over thoughts of appetizers and cold beer.
That said, there is a date to look forward to just past the big game. You wouldn’t know it from the sports news coverage, but there is a milestone coming up for the MLB: Pitchers and Catchers will soon be reporting to their voluntary camp dates. Even now, MLB athletes are enjoying time with family and friends. Ahead of them is a tough camp to hone the muscles and ingrain the mental toughness necessary to gruel through 162 games. As fans, we can take this as the initial trumpet call. Baseball is coming back. Pull your jersey out of the closet and dust off the stuffed monkey, because in a handful of weeks, we’ll be seeing the fresh cut grass and hearing the calls of the concessions hawkers as we enjoy opening day.
It’s understandable that we could all be operating in a Super Bowl hangover haze, but doesn’t baseball deserve its party dues as well? Every year, it seems that there is a group of people attempting to make the Monday after Super Bowl a national holiday for recovery. If we’re going to make a holiday, then it shouldn’t be the day AFTER a big event. The MLB Pitchers and Catchers report day should be that holiday, and we, the fans should be the ones to build it!
This can’t be a weak holiday like Arbor Day. If the Super Bowl spectacle is to be rivaled, then nothing can be held back. This day needs to be right up there in the department store sales ads. Like Halloween, Christmas, and New Year’s, Pitchers and Catchers Day is going to be an extravaganza. All that remains is to work out the details, the holiday traditions, if you will. Since the date is a herald to break out our baseball fan gear, then only team attire should be acceptable for the day. Gift giving seems a bit much, as do door-to-door activities like trick-or-treating or caroling, but barbecues seem more than appropriate. Let propane tanks, wood chip smokers and charcoal will all be fired up in anticipation of the day! It also feels that traditional baseball movies should be shown on television like Christmas movies in December. “Major League”, “Mr. Baseball”, “A League of Their Own”, “The Rookie”, and all other manner of cinematic masterpieces will grace the standard cable channels. Elementary schools can mark the week leading up to Pitchers and Catchers Day with special mathematics lessons involving ERA and batting average calculations, in addition to lunches of ballpark hotdogs and tater tots. Offices will hold “White Elephant” gift exchanges where coworkers will give away bobbleheads and framed 8×10 photos of players that were traded in the offseason. Finally, on the blessed day, everyone gathers with the family around their flatscreen TVs and their live-streaming web apps to watch our returning heroes make their way to Spring Training facilities. Those who find themselves fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage to their team’s compound may be rewarded with autographs and quick cameraphone pictures with their favorite athletes (which, of course, will be shared on Facebook in the new holiday tradition).
Building a new holiday is no easy task. Too over-the-top and people will call you gaudy and commercialized. Too meek and they won’t take it seriously (like Flag Day). Baseball is lucky enough to have a pre-installed fan base and while we sometimes get into it on game day, we have enough in common in our love for the game to make us a sort of twisted family. If there is to be a holiday with a baseball theme, then the focus should be that familial bond. Celebrations, whatever the reason, should be a time of shared happiness, and since we’ll be at each other’s throats all summer, maybe sharing a little bit of fan love would be a good way to start the season.
After all, we may be a motley crew, but we’re not savages (unless the Yankees are in town).