The Music of Opening Day, 2015

Happy Opening Day. It’s a great day made greater because of what has come before: a tough, slamming winter that pushed many of us back behind our doors, scraping the window frost to watch snowbanks rise and streets turn to ice and great branches of old trees crack and collapse under the weight of heavy snow. The promise of spring and the promise of baseball– spikes pocking new grass and wood spanking horsehide and lotion greased on arms hanging over plastic chairs under the tangerine sun– is tantalizing at the best of times, but, this season, it’s like a dripping popsicle on dry tongues, and more than ever, we need the game to slake our thirst. To those who live in warm places where the game is a birth rite played year round, Canada may appear to be a baseball outpost, having only a single MLB team to serve our enormous country. But baseball is important to us because of these paucities, and in a city where the Leafs kick our spirits into the ditch, the idea of the Jays winning is even more profound. We need the team and the game to remind us that time and seasons change, and that games bring hope and a freeing sense that life is malleable and multi-coloured: white becoming gold and grey becoming green; winter becoming summer; snow becoming dirt becoming grass. I’m excited– excited is the wrong word; maybe illuminated is better– for this Blue Jays season partly for the reasons I’ve explained above, but partly because of the team and its new players: Daniel Norris, a left-handed starting pitcher who lives in a van and reads Kerouac; Roberto Osuna, who was a Mexican field-worker barely into his teens who studied how to pitch in the low hours between long shifts; Dalton Pompey, who learned how to swing a bat in the batting cages of Playdium in Mississauga, Ontario, the arcade where I used to bring my son for his birthday adventures; and Russell Martin, half-aboriginal Manitoban, half Afro-Quebecois, who has the blood of jazz in him. It’s a beautiful group that Alex Anthopolous has added to the core, but who knows? Baseball is a fragile game, especially pitching, and like most seasons– most seasons of late anyway– luck will have to play a part in this whole thing. Still, we’ll be at the ballpark earlier than other years. We’ll be playing “We Got the Blue Jays” by the Home Run Band and “The Whole Town’s Talking ‘Bout the Blue Jays” and “Shaker’s Rap” and the Jays’ version of “Talking Baseball” and “Terminator,” which is about Tom Henke, the pride of Taos. I’ll also play “The Ballad of Jesse (Barfield) and George (Bell) because George was my favourite. I used to spin this record before heading to the Ex. Those were good, healthy days and they seemed to last forever, until they didn’t. Teams stopped winning, players left, and here we are, twenty plus years without any playoffs. So there is hunger unto this thirst and yet we are energized with the protein of hope, the candy of dreams.  There is a single crocus in our front garden and the jukebox is ready to be wheeled outside. I’ll load it with novelty songs and jazz and we can listen together on warm summer days to come. But first: Yankee Stadium, 1 pm, Drew Hutchison, -6 in the shade. Happy Opening Day. Finally, it’s here.

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