Nathan Eovaldi, Christian Vazquez

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, left, talks with catcher Christian Vazquez as they walk off the field at the end of the second inning of a March 19 spring training game against the Rays in Fort Myers, Fla.. AP photo

I remember on Opening Day in 2018, I sat at my computer in the Kennebec Journal office and watched the final innings of the Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles game. I fumed as the Twins tied the game with a two-run ninth, then rejoiced when Adam Jones hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Orioles 3, Twins 2.

I remember my editor, Bill Stewart, laughing a few desks away. I can’t remember what he said, but I remember the gist. Something about how the Orioles weren’t going to do that too often that season. I can’t remember what I said back, but I remember the gist. Something about how, just watch, the Orioles were going to surprise everyone that year.

The Orioles went 47-115 that season.


But that’s the point. That’s Opening Day for you. If Christmas is the annual occasion for good will and Thanksgiving the time for gratitude, the start of the baseball season is the time of pure, undiluted hope. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and today, all 30 of them are kings. All 30 go into today thinking “You know…I think we could be pretty good this year.”

If anyone can speak to this, I can. I root for maybe the furthest thing from a competitive team baseball has to offer. The last two times the Orioles played 162 games, they lost first 115 times, then 108. Matt Harvey, a shell of himself who was last seen pitching to an 11.57 ERA in 2020 is not only in the Baltimore rotation, he’s the No. 2 pitcher. When the statistics site Fangraphs posted its playoff odds, it listed the Orioles as the only team with a zero percent chance of making the postseason.

Zero. Absolutely none. There is a higher chance of there being a snowstorm in Phoenix in July, Fangraphs would say, than there is of the Orioles playing in October.

And even I and the rest of my O’s fan brethren can be hopeful. This is the day to think Harvey just might still have that Cy Young form. And that lineup could actually be pretty good. And that bullpen has promise, and if the rotation surprises, and if this guy and that guy develop sooner than expected…well, then, who knows?

On Opening Day, even we can say that.

Of course, no one has it easier today than Dodgers fans or Yankees fans or Padres fans. They’re dreaming of the World Series, and their wishes aren’t far-fetched. The Dodgers are the defending champions and might be even better than they were last year. The Yankees have talent everywhere. The Padres might have the best young core in all of baseball. For their fans, the World Series isn’t some pipe dream. It’s a condition or two away from happening.

But you don’t have to be a fan of a juggernaut to bask in the promise that this day brings. If you’re a fan of the Braves or the Brewers or the White Sox or the Mets, or even the teams predicted by many to be also-rans this year, you have all season to fear the worst. This is the day to hope for the best.

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In this Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020 photo, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left foreground, sits beside third baseman Justin Turner as they pose for a group picture after the Dodgers defeated the Rays 3-1 in Game 6 to win the World Series in Arlington, Texas. Ap photo

Even you Red Sox fans — negative and critical as you’ve traditionally loved to be — have plenty to be hopeful for this season. Yes, the pitching rotation looks shakier than Kansas City’s offensive line in the Super Bowl. And it still stings to know what Mookie Betts is doing 3,000 miles away. But with that offense? With Rafael Devers and Xander Bogearts leading the way, and Alex Verdugo doing what he did last season, this will be a team that scores some runs. And what if J.D. Martinez bounces back? What if Chris Sale comes back later at full health? What if Eduardo Rodriguez pitches like it’s 2019? What if Nathan Eovaldi pitches like an ace?

Some of this requires some blind optimism and faith, but not all of it. And even if it does, so what? What better time is there than now to put your cold, harsh rationality aside for a moment?

It’s Opening Day. Baseball’s back. Spring is here. Summer is coming. Fans will be at the games. This is the time to be excited.

As baseball reminds us each season, anything is possible. Even — this fan hopes — the 0.0 percent likelihood.

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