Opening Day is all about firsts

Opening Day never disappoints.

It has been my favorite day of the entire sports calendar since I can remember.

Every team in baseball has the same starting line (except for the Dodgers, who already have played half their schedule this year, it seems) with limitless possibilities.

Sure, within about a week's time, one of the league's favorites will be 1-5 and the team's fans will be in a full-blown panic.

But we all know that sliver of the season is largely irrelevant, the smallest of sample sizes tricking us into thinking something that may not be true at all in the big picture.

Same goes the other way for a club to which nobody has paid much attention sprinting out to a 5-1 start. All the preseason angst disappears for a few days before the inevitable four-game skid brings reality back into the fray.

I know there are some people who still scoff at the idea of baseball being played in the cold Midwest on the final day of March.

But I remember being 10 years old in mid-Michigan and champing at the bit to race home from school on a day like this to watch the Tigers play the Indians on TV amid snow flurries at old Tiger Stadium.

I didn't care what the weather was, I just wanted to watch a game that counted in the standings.

Today is truly the only day of the baseball season on which a manager can craft his lineup and set up his bullpen exactly the way he envisioned it over the winter.

Sure, almost every team has guys on the disabled list to begin the year, but the healthy players are rested and in exactly the spot the skipper wants.

And while we know the 25-man roster could change as quickly as the following day, all the hype and buildup of six weeks of spring training is about who will make the season-starting team and who will get the nod in THIS game alone.

Opening Day is about firsts.

The first pitch of the season, the initial strikeout, the first hit and home run.

You win today and no matter what happens the rest of the way, you've been a winning ballclub for at least one day in the standings.

Which brings me to a trend in baseball that is starting to get a bit out of hand - the pre-opening-day "openers."

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers played two games in Australia over a week ago, and then Los Angeles played the Padres on Sunday night on national television.

In the big picture, it's not the end of the world, I suppose, but I still cling to the idea of everybody christening the season on the same day.

I'm pretty sure longtime Cincinnati Reds fans aren't too keen on their long-held tradition of being the opening-day bell-ringers being completely nullified by all the false starts to the championship season.

Alas, television and the need to grow the game internationally rule the day, and I'm afraid the idea of "one" big Opening Day is a thing of the past.

For me, I choose to think of today as the real Opening Day as the Cubs kick off their season against last year's National League playoff darlings, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And I can bet with confidence that Rick Renteria, who will don the Cubs uniform as an opening-day manager for the first time, feels the same way I do.

• Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs.

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