Spring means baseball

Today’s a special day on a couple of different levels.

First, it is Easter Sunday, the day Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Second, it’s opening day for Major League Baseball.

I’ve been a baseball fan my entire life, and I have never really been able to explain the magic that goes with the start of a new season. On a basic level, the baseball season opens in the spring, when the days are getting longer and there is a general sense of renewal all around us.

To me, though, baseball works because of a couple of things that it is consistently most criticized for: It’s unwillingness to change and the length of its schedule.

The regular season is made up of 162 games, which a growing number of “experts” tells us over and over is too many.

Having that many games spread over six months allows each game to be enjoyed a little more, however.

There’s a little less intensity, as opposed to professional football, for instance, where there are only 16 regular-season games.

That said, each game is important. For instance, it’s easy to say that a botched double play ball that costs a team a win on April 2, is not that big of a deal because it happened early in the season. That same double play ball will loom large, however, for a team that finds itself one game out of playoff spot as September nears and end.

Many of its detractors say baseball won’t change, but that is probably one of its greatest beauties. It’s somehow reassuring to know that if you could sit down and watch a game with someone who attended one of the games of the first World Series in 1903, you would find that, fundamentally, the game of baseball really has not changed.

The equipment is better, of course, as are the fields and the state-of-the-art stadiums that teams now play in – but pitching, hitting and fielding and the rules of the game? They have not really changed too much at all.

That 1903 World Series, by the way, pitted the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Boston Pilgrims. Boston prevailed, five games to three. Those Pirates of 1903 played their home games at Exposition Park, which sat not too far from where PNC Park sits today.

History and a strong sense of tradition keep the game strong. No trip to PNC Park, for example, should ever be complete with a leisurely walk around the perimeter to look at the statues of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Honus Wagner and Bill Mazeroski. They remain among the greatest to ever play the game.

That sense of tradition, that connection with the past, helps to keep the game special, as does the knowledge that with a new season comes a fresh start.

You can see it on television tonight when the Texas Rangers visit the Houston Astros. And, if you’re among the fortunate 36,000 or so who have tickets, you can experience it for yourself at 1:35 p.m. Monday, when the Pirates host the Chicago Cubs.

Baseball’s back, and I hope you will take the time to enjoy it.

And, have a blessed Easter.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)