By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — There’s a certain allure to opening day in baseball. Yes, the first game of any sport’s season is special, but baseball tends to make us all nostalgic, make us put unnecessary importance on what in reality is just one of 162 games.
And maybe that explains why I, along with a number of Mariners fans out there, was awake at 3 a.m. Wednesday to watch the Mariners take on Oakland in Tokyo.
Or maybe it was just a moment of temporary insanity while on the phone with my boss that led me to volunteer to run a live chat on The Herald’s website during the game.
Either way, despite a rather groggy Wednesday, I’m glad I dragged myself out of bed, and I’m willing to bet the handful of you who did the same thing felt the same way.
By the time you’re reading this, the Mariners will have already played their second game, which started at 2 a.m. today. Sorry, I slept through that one. But let’s focus for a moment on the opener, which served as a reminder of just how much people care about baseball and the Mariners, even when the team is more than a decade removed from its last playoff berth.
When I logged onto our Mariners chat, I expected it to be the beginning of a three-hour, one-way conversation, but sure enough there were a handful of you crazy enough to be up and on your computers. One reader named Dave even sent in comments from London (though it was the middle of the day there, so he wasn’t making quite the same sacrifice). On our chat we talked about players’ walk-up music choices, Safeco Field beer prices, Ichiro hitting third, whether or not Felix should pitch the ninth, two-foot hotdogs in Arlington and plenty of other nonsense. It was hardly the way I would normally spend my time from 3-6 a.m., but darn it, it was enjoyable. Well, enjoyable at least up to the point where I realized my plans of a morning nap were going to be delayed by extra innings.
And thanks to Twitter, watching the game alone in the wee hours of the morning still had the feel of a viewing party with a big group of friends. At Safeco Field, a few hearty season ticket holders were on hand for an actual viewing party, taking dedication to a new level, one that required actually changing out of pajamas and traveling farther than the couch.
So why all the fuss? Why sacrifice the better part of a night’s sleep for 0.62 percent of a Mariners season that likely will end in mediocrity, at best? Because that’s what baseball, and the hope that opening day provides, can do to otherwise rational people.
Does Ichiro Suzuki going 4-for-5 mean he will hit .800 this season? Of course not, but that one game, along with a healthy dose of sleep deprivation, can convince you that he can reverse a two-year trend of eroding skills and return to an All-Star level.
Will Dustin Ackley collect two hits, including a 430-foot home run, every night? Don’t be silly. But seeing one of the team’s promising young prospects get off to a quick start is enough to make you think that maybe, just maybe, the Mariners won’t be so offensively inept this season.
Will Felix Hernandez pitch brilliantly every five days and settle for no decisions because he doesn’t get enough run support? Oh wait, that actually might happen. In fact we’ve seen a lot of that over the past few years.
Sure there was plenty of cynicism and sarcasm — the internet is a great place for that — as the Mariners hit weak ground ball after weak ground ball, seemingly intent on wasting a King Felix gem. But what also came across both on Twitter and our chat was a genuine enthusiasm for a team that has done little to merit such support in recent years.
This is what opening day does to us. It makes us do crazy things, like get up at 3 a.m. Like believe, against your better judgment, that your team won’t let you down again in 2012.
The Mariners will return from Japan either alone in first place or tied for first place — again, sorry, but I slept through Game 2. There will be 160 more games to decide if this season will be another letdown. Sane people shouldn’t get their hopes up for this team, and they really shouldn’t be getting up at 3 a.m., yet that’s what a few of you did. That’s what baseball, and especially opening day, can do to us.
Now, who else needs a nap?
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com