I have to say, I can’t remember being so unexcited about an Opening Day. It’s weird. I look forward to the rhythm that Yankee baseball will bring to my life, of listening to the game in the car on the way home from school, turning on YES when I get home to watch while putting together dinner, popping over to this site to mingle with the Banterites.
None of that has changed. I imagine I’ll still consume 125 games this season, my son and I will go to at least one of the games in Anaheim, and we might even motivate to travel a bit farther away to see the Bombers play in person in some other stadium.
But all of that is because that’s the way it’s always been. My attachment to the Yankees right now is more like an attachment to a limb. If they’ve always been a part of my life, if they’ve been the one constant of the past 45 years — and I don’t mean that in a romantic James Earl Jones kind of way, but as a simple fact — how can I not want to do all those things?
Part of this is because I’ve gotten older. I knew when Derek Jeter retired that I would never have another favorite player, just because it made no sense. I’ve got stacks of Jeter baseball cards and a jersey hanging in my closet. Remember the GQ cover with Jeter, A-Rod, and Nomar? It’s in a box in the garage.
I’ve written here before about my affinity to the former Captain, and it would make sense if I were to transfer some of those same feelings to Aaron Judge, presumably the next captain of my favorite team, but there’s something missing. Not with Judge, but with me.
It’s likely that there are fewer baseball seasons in my future than in my past, but that realization hasn’t made me look at this year or the next or the one after that as any more precious. Instead, it’s just another campaign in a series of seasons that have begun to spin past with a disturbing quickness. When I was a boy there was no longer stretch of time than the months that separated the last Yankee game in October from the first one in April, but as I write this on the eve of Opening Day it seems like only a few weeks ago that the Yankees were eliminated in a dismal Wild Card loss to the Red Sox, of all teams.
And I’ve fallen victim to the worst symptom of growing up — I firmly believe that I’ll never again know the thrill of waiting for that pop-up to settle into Charlie Hayes’s glove back in 1996. I won’t ever feel so brashly confident as when I was walking out through the Anaheim Stadium concourse in the summer of 1998, chanting “Let’s!-Go!-Yan!-kees!” along with thousands of other West Coast Yankee fans — after a loss. I’ve been watching this team long enough that my heroes have become myths and their exploits have become legend. Nothing that happens in 2022 will match anything that’s come before, that’s what my heart tells me.
Intellectually I know that I’m no different than the cranky guys at the bar who once complained that Reggie and Munson were no match for Mantle and Maris, or the crankier guys who once preferred Gehrig and Ruth over the M&M Boys. Intellectually I know that Judge and Stanton might put a hundred balls over the fence this year, but will that thrill me like Guidry did in ’78? Like Jeter did when he put #3,000 into the seats? Like Mo did for nineteen years?
But they aren’t wrong when they talk about the possibilities that loom large on Opening Day. If fans in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Kansas City can feel optimistic about their teams, certainly I can muster some positive thoughts for my Yankees. I can look past deficiencies behind the plate and age almost everywhere you look. I can be thankful that I don’t have to root for Carlos Correa. I can dream about the glorious possibility of Jasson Dominguez, the same as I once did about Ruben Rivera. (In the dream, it turns out different this time.)
So while I might not be as excited about this Opening Day as I was five or ten years ago, I’ll still be watching. The line drives will be crisp, the curveballs will snap. A new Yankee will show up wearing an old number that Graeme Lloyd or Mel Hall or Luís Sojo used to wear, and I’ll make a mental note, but I’ll stay in the moment. Because that’s what I’ve always done. That’s what I’ll always do.