The Charm of Opening Day

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blue Crabs' 2012 Season Opens Thursday

As winter unfolds into spring and the days lengthen and grow warmer, certain traditions play out across the country. Sleds and snow shovels are replaced with lawnmowers and sprinklers, barbecue grills are wheeled out of sheds, and fathers and sons stretch their limbs in preparation for the first game of catch of the season. Somewhere in Florida and Arizona, men who have the good fortune to play the game for a living begin to field thousands of grounders, hit thousands of line drives, slide into thousands of bases. If there is any tradition more truly American than the beginning of the baseball season, I don’t know what it is.

I’m a numbers guy. I love to track silly things, like how many cars on average can turn left from Route 301 on to Smallwood Drive at different times of the day. (Whatever the answer is, by the way, I am always the answer plus one from the light.) This is why I love baseball and why I love opening day. Every statistic, every number, is at 0. My favorite team’s record is 0-0, my favorite pitcher’s ERA is 0.00, and my favorite hitter’s average doesn’t even exist yet. And then the first pitch is thrown and someone is batting a thousand on the season, someone’s ERA goes from 0 to infinity in 435 feet of beautifully arcing clear blue sky, and someone is already convinced his hometown team is either basement or Series bound. 

Opening day for Major League Baseball has come and gone, and yes, I’m keeping track of all sorts of things. I know, for instance, that the Nationals are in first place and that they are 1 ½ games over the Braves. But Washington is twenty-five miles away and it’s not my hometown. St. Charles is. So as much as I enjoy the big leagues, there’s another opening day I’m looking forward to; one I’m a little more personally attached to—that of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs .

The Blue Crabs are about to start their fifth season on April 26th. I’ve been to three of the previous four opening days, which have all been standing room only events. Where major league games can impress through sheer size and volume, they can also seem distant and impersonal. The charm of a Blue Crabs game lies in its personal closeness and its connection to the community. Yes, that is your insurance agent throwing out the first pitch, and your newlywed neighbors sumo wrestling between innings, and a kid you once coached serving you a crab pretzel and a beer. As much fun as it is to take in a ballgame with a few friends, you don’t actually have to bring them with you to the ballpark. They’re already going to be here; you just need to find them.

There are few activities in the region more family oriented than a day at the stadium. Aside from socializing and the game itself, there is plenty of food and drink, various promotions and activities, a play area for children, and a summertime feature called Crabby Cove that consists of bumper boats, squirt guns, and a waterfall. There is so much else to do, in fact, that often the most difficult part of taking in a game is keeping track of the score. But don’t worry, I’ll keep track of that for you, along with the pitchers’ ERA, and the team’s on base percentage, and the short stop’s fielding percentage, and . . .


Mike Billard, when he's not at a Blue Crabs game, is a board member of the Adams Landing Townhome Association, the Wakefield Neighborhood Association, and the Smallwood Village Association.