Opening Day means many things to baseball fans. It is a chance at a fresh start, an often-fleeting window of hope and optimism, and the actual first day of Spring. Growing up, though, Opening Day primarily meant just one thing: an amazing day with my dad.
From when I was 5 years old in 1996 to when I was a senior in high school in 2009, my dad and I attended all but one Orioles home opener. Our lone absence was in 2002 when we were vacationing in Costa Rica. We still managed to catch the highlights of the Orioles crushing the Yankees 10-3 and had a wonderful trip, but it was still sad to see the streak end. We were able to watch Maryland beat Indiana to win the Championship that same vacation.
My memories of the 13 Opening Days we attended are overwhelmingly happy, but occasionally spotty. Particular moments stand out throughout the years. 1997, for example, marked the debut of our birthday boy sign that you can see in the picture. My birthday is March 31st and would always fall on or near the home opener. My mom made us this great sign as a tool to find scalpers to buy tickets. The sign got us free tickets at least 5 times. The 1997 game also stands out in my mind as one filled with incredible diving catches from the outfield of B.J. Surhoff, Brady Anderson, and Eric Davis. Baseball-Reference tells me that Brady DHed that game and Jeffrey Hammonds manned center, but let's not let facts get in the way of a good story.
In 1998 (I believe), a local TV crew interviewed my dad and me about our sign as part of a piece on Opening Day. I felt famous the next day at school when my friends told me they saw me on HTS the night before and didn't feel at all guilty about being caught playing hooky. 1999 was the Opening Day when I discovered that the Orioles were allowed to play teams that were not the Royals on Opening Day. Kansas City was the only team I had seen the Orioles play to open Camden Yards, and I though there was some strange rule or tradition that mandated that matchup to start the season.
2003 is another memorable Opening Day as it snowed so hard it caused a delay. I'm still angry that the umpire waited until after Jay Gibbons lost the ball in the flurries to suspend play. What people don't remember is that 2004 was even colder. 2007 was a shock to the system as the Orioles started the year on the road. I somehow never even realized that was a possibility; it was the first time it had happened since we started our streak. Of course, it didn't make the home opener with my dad a few days later any less special.
My memory tells me that the Orioles lost just one of the 13 Opening Days my dad and I attended together, but once again facts rear their ugly head to poke holes in the story I've told many people. The Birds actually went 10-3 in those 13 games, still an impressive record for a span that saw 11 losing seasons.
When I began college in Illinois, I was fairly homesick to start the year but got over it quite quickly. It wasn't until April of my freshman year, when I realized I wouldn't be able to spend opening day with my father that this homesickness struck again. As I watched on MLB.tv, I longed to be sitting next to my dad in the most beautiful stadium in sports.
Last year, after five cold Opening Days in the Midwest, my spring break lined up with the O's home opener, and my dad and I were able to rekindle our tradition. As we were buying tickets, my dad asked me if there were any friends I wanted to invite to the game with us, but to me that was a ridiculous question. Opening Day will always be a day for me and my dad.
NickMarkaces and his dad rekindle their tradition on Opening Day 2015
NickMarkaces has been an off and on regular on Camden Chat since 2008. He currently teaches high school math in Chicago, IL.
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