There’s a feeling in the air when spring arrives. Temperatures rise, daffodils bloom, animals come out of hibernation and the baseball season begins.
Opening Day is an official holiday in my mind. A new baseball season signals a fresh start. Every team begins the season undefeated. The Cleveland Indians are set to begin their 2021 season Thursday in Detroit against the Tigers and open at home Monday against the Kansas City Royals.
Last season was the first one in decades that didn’t capture my interest. It started in late July instead of late March or early April and it consisted of 60 games instead of 162. The MLB schedule was altered to minimize travel and fans were not permitted at games.
I think they should have scrapped the whole season, although I’m sure any fan of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers would disagree. Despite rules put in place because of the pandemic, I wasn’t convinced playing was safe or that all the players would adhere to the rules.
More than 40 games involving more than a dozen teams were postponed last season because of positive coronavirus cases among players and other team personnel. Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac left the team hotel on a road trip, a violation, and were subsequently demoted in August. Fortunately, the Indians finished the shortened season without any COVID-19 cases.
Violations by players were not surprising, but they reaffirmed my diminished interest in Major League Baseball in 2020. Some friends had suggested that baseball would be a welcome distraction from the daily dose of devastating news surrounding the virus. It didn’t work that way for me. When I watched a game on TV, I always noticed who was masked and who wasn’t. Cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands and piped-in crowd noise were poor substitutes for the real thing and served as reminders of the pandemic. Surprisingly, I found I didn’t miss the sport during its hiatus despite being an Indians fan since 1974.
I wasn’t really disappointed when the Indians quickly exited the 2020 postseason with a loss to the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Series. If they had managed to win their first World Series since 1948, that accomplishment would have an asterisk in my mind. Apologies to Dodgers fans. I didn’t even watch the World Series last year.
The 2021 season is a clean slate, though, with each team scheduled to play 162 games. I suspect my enthusiasm for baseball will return when play begins. With more people being vaccinated daily, some return to normalcy is in sight. Fans will be admitted to ballparks this season, albeit at reduced capacity, but that’s better than nothing.
I’m not sure whether I’ll attend any Indians games this year. I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 23 and I’m scheduled for the second shot April 13. Two weeks after that, I’m told, I can ease up on my self-imposed semi-isolation, although masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing will remain part of my routine indefinitely.
For now, I’m keeping two words in mind: Play ball!
Molly Callahan is a writer and editor from Rocky River.