Editorial: Another season in the sun

  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale throws during a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies on March 19 in Fort Myers, Fla. AP

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The great Rogers Hornsby once said: “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.”

We’ve been staring out the window for months, imagining a landscape where a sea of emerald grass meets the flat perfection of infield dirt. We can almost smell buttered popcorn and grilled sausages. We can almost hear an ash bat striking a cowhide-covered ball of cork and yarn. We can almost see a white ball with red seams launched into an azure sky, well out of the reach of leather mitts on outstretched arms. We can almost feel the high-fives of shared joy.

Today you can throw open that window and head outside. Winter is over, spring is here and the boys of summer are taking the field. Baseball season has arrived.

The Red Sox open the 2018 campaign in Florida, where they’ll play the Tampa Bay Rays in a 4 p.m. game. The late-afternoon start means Little Leaguers will rush through their homework, workers will cut out early and bars will be packed. For fans stuck in cubicles, warehouses or offices, a dip in productivity will align perfectly with those magical words: “Play ball.”

A few hours later, when the final out is in the books, Sox fans will begin applying what they witnessed in game one to the 161 regular season games yet to be played. Depending on the outcome, it will be some variation of “we don’t have a chance this year” or “this team is going to win it all.” So begins six-plus months of miraculous wins and deflating losses, amazing catches and boneheaded errors, hot streaks and cold patches, new studs and fallen stars – and all of it happens within a game most people played as kids.

And perhaps that’s baseball’s most beautiful illusion: Fans of all ages watch the professionals on the field and think, “That’s the same game I played.” It’s a claim they wouldn’t dream of making about other professional sports. NBA players are too tall and jump too high. NFL players are too strong and too agile. NHL players are too graceful and too quick. Soccer players have too much stamina and mind-boggling feet. But when you watch professional baseball players take the field, they look like regular guys playing a familiar game. If it’s a fly ball, you catch it. If it’s a ground ball, you scoop it up. If you can’t turn two, you throw to first. You swing. You run. You slide. You cross home. Just like you did when you were a kid.

Deep down, the fan knows he wouldn’t come close to even fouling off a Chris Sale fastball or stabbing a line drive off the bat of Mookie Betts. She understands that she would have a better chance of stealing the “Mona Lisa” than second base off Christian Vazquez. And flawlessly playing the carom off the Green Monster? Not a chance – but the baseball gods whisper otherwise.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Opening day is here, and all is right with the world – for nine innings at a time, anyway.