Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers, was supposed to host Opening Day on Thursday, but the season start was postponed by Major League Baseball because of the coronoavirus pandemic. AP photo

This was supposed to be one of the best days of the sports year.

This was supposed to be Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, an unofficial start to spring and a promise that summer will soon be here as well.

It was supposed to be the turning of the page for a lot of the game’s most celebrated teams and players. It was supposed to be the start of Mookie Betts in Los Angeles. And Gerrit Cole in New York. And Josh Donaldson with the Twins.

It was supposed to be the start of another year of watching the game’s brightest stars. Another year of marveling at Mike Trout. Or Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom. Or Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger or Aaron Judge, or Rafael Devers.

It was supposed to be the start of season-long schadenfreude in the form of tormenting the despised Houston Astros, convicted cheaters, who were staring at 81 waves of abuse on the road harsher than any team has had to recently endure.

Thursday won’t be that, of course. Parks are closed and the sport is shut down, appropriately so, for the coronavirus pandemic, as baseball tries to do its part in mitigating a crisis that has unnerved the country.

And we knew this was coming. Major League Baseball announced nearly two weeks ago that the start of the season would be delayed, and there have been no attempts at false hope regarding a quick turnaround coming from the league offices. Projections for when the season will finally begin vary, but none of them are saying it will be soon.

Still, it hits hard when the day arrives, and there are no tickets to buy or games to turn on. We knew this was going to be a drag.

Today, it sinks in just how much of a drag it is.

It’s not fun to see the basketball and hockey seasons suspended as well, and losing the NCAA basketball tournaments was probably second only to the Super Bowl in terms of cancellation gut punches.

But losing baseball is different. There’s a reason people take personal days at work to watch Opening Day, and why teams with no hopes of being competitive pack the house with playoff-type crowds. It’s not just a day to welcome back a team, a league and a sport. It’s a time to re-embrace a pastime, reconnect with friends and family members over this one shared interest, and cozy up next to something that’s going to be there for you to enjoy, every day, for the next six months.

That’s why Opening Day is so anticipated, so treasured. And instead of spending Thursday, March 26, watching highlights of home runs and strikeouts and dazzling plays in the field, we’ll be reading more stories of crowded hospitals, overworked medical staffers and rising case counts that make that longed-for day feel further and further away.

Thursday was going to be the start of the baseball season. It won’t be. And that’s nothing significant in the grand scheme of things, with what’s going on in the country.

In the smaller picture, though, it’s a bummer. And it’s a blow.

If there’s a bright side, it’s that Opening Day isn’t — we think — off for good. The season will start. It may be late May, mid-June. It may mean a shorter season. Baseball will probably look different. But at least it will be back.

We just have to wait. And that’s a tough fact to face today. This day that was supposed to be one of the best days of the year.

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