As I'm pretty certain is always the case this time of year, Your Friendly Neighborhood Sports Reporter's last month's worth of columns have been almost entirely about the approach of baseball season.
On February 6, I wrote about super-agent Scott Boras (who still hasn't found Jake Arrieta a home yet for the 2018 season ... better get on that, super-agent) being correct in saying that, long-term, this new trend of professional sports teams tanking now to build for the future will not be beneficial for the game.
On February 13 with Valentine's Day love floating carelessly through the air like a Jason Heyward weak flyball in a two-out, runners-in-scoring-position clutch situation, I write about the return of spring training and four of the most beautiful words the English language has to offer this side of "cellar door" — "pitchers and catchers report."
Two weeks ago, I wrote about what the inevitable Cubs Network® could — but almost certainly won't — look like when it is created in a few years, and how I and many fans would gladly pay $200-250 a year to have (almost) all their Cubs content in one basket easily accessible across multiple devices.
Last week, after finishing an admittedly too-long rant against the Olympics, Jimmy Buffett and Pepsi-Cola, amongst other things, I wrote about Major League Baseball's infatuation with so-called pace-of-play rules to speed up the ever-slower game of professional baseball, my ultimate point (when I final got there) being that if you like the game just fine the way it is and have for a few decades-plus, the pace-of-play rules aren't meant for you, because the game already HAS you.
Sure, there is the NCAA Tournament and the NBA and the NHL and the PGA Tour and the start of the NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar and horse-racing seasons, most of which I thoroughly enjoy following ... or at the very least falling asleep on the couch to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Baseball, though, has my heart as it always has from the days I used to pull the brim of my Streator Youth Baseball cap down over my eyes, come set and throw a tennis ball against my grandma's concrete stairs pretending to be major league pitchers such as Lee Smith, Jimmy Key, Dennis Eckersley and Phil Niekro.
So while the start of March Madness is exciting and I will almost certainly be writing about bracketology in the weeks to come, it is the start of baseball season that truly keeps me going through these last few clingy weeks of winter.
I already have my March 29 planned:
As the Cubs open the 2018 season in Miami with an 11:40 a.m. first pitch against the Marlins, I will have Pat Hughes on the radio and some glowing Kingsford charcoal briquettes on the old Weber kettle. Neither filet mignon nor slow-smoked ribs nor fresh-out-the-field corn on the cob tastes quite as delicious as the baseball season's first all-beef hot dog covered with half-burnt sauerkraut and spicy mustard.
In years past, a trip to the local watering hole or even Wrigley Field (possibly after calling off work sick, I'll never tell) with friends may have been in order, but going on six years now I've spent every daytime opening day with a grill, a radio and my little girl, and that's opening day enough for me. In fact, I can't wait until it gets here again.
Planning out this year's big day made me wonder: What are your opening-day traditions? If you'd like to share them (and have me share them here as well), drop me a line at email@example.com or at 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.
I — and I bet a few other people — would love to hear about them.