Opening Day Signals

The weather forecast is not promising, though I have sat through a few Opening Days with long-johns beneath my jeans and Reds’ shirt. I will once again shiver until the game’s end, unless it appears downright hopeless. And even in that case, I may recall a certain year, when the Reds were down by 3 going into the bottom of the ninth. We walked out, my son, aunt and sisters, all lamenting another loss on Opening Day. But soon, we heard fireworks, and other fans were running alongside of us, with radios attached to ears, jumping for joy. Barry Larkin had just hit a gram slam home run. Reds win. Reds win. (Davis – Opening Day, 2011. Reds. Win.)

So, I sit this morning, after enduring a few taunts from husband about money spent on scalping two tickets. I suspect he is jealous that I choose my son Davis, over him. But it only because of tradition that I do so. That, and a sense of obligation to honor what’s past and what is present.

I had always been a Cleveland Indian’s fan. I still am, or at least, I admire them from afar down in the reaches of the Ohio River valley. I don’t drive the four hours north to see a game, mainly because if I am to undertake that drive, I would rather spend it with my parents, heading into the ninth inning of their years here on earth.

My roommate in college was a bat girl for the baseball team. The entire team became friends, as well as potential love interests. As a bleacher creature in the old Lakefront Stadium, I was subjected to the summer wind that always felt more like Artic Blast and rooted for Doug Jones, the Stopper. I had a crush on Omar Vizquel and used to call him, Oh my, Omar. But mostly I loved how swiftly and effortlessly he moved to the field the ball and make the throw to first. I have seen ballet in the ballplayers and honestly, enjoy it more than the Ballet itself.

After moving to Cincinnati in my twenties, I went to Opening Day with my sister and a friend who would later become my husband. We hung out at Flanagans, before, during and after the game. I managed to secure a ticket to the first game of the 1990 World Series and looked hard to find a broom for the celebration that year on Fountain Square.

I have fallen off my couch while watching the Indians collapse in the World Series in 1997. I was living in Portland and it was the Fall of Devin’s diagnosis of cancer. I felt like if the Indians could overcome their troubles, then that victory would be transferrable.

After reluctantly moving back to Cincinnati, Opening Day came with a joyful memory attached – Despite his cancer relapsing, Devin attended the game with his friends from Dayton. It was rainy and cold, and I dropped him off and picked him up. I would have pinch-hit or been designated batter or swept the field to be a part of that moment. Devin would pass away that September.

That is where memory leaves off and tradition begins. Devin’s family, including grandparents, uncles and aunts were n Red’s fans. Grandpa Howard attended most Opening Days, of his 80 some years. A part of me wanted Davis to experience that connection to his extended family. Another part of me felt like I could stop time, by standing in the place where Devin stood, and continue the streak he began, to march on, in his place. We would watch the parade, cheering for Marge Schott, because I adored who I knew she was on the inside, and not who many appeared to think she was on the outside. I understood the need for her persona in a male dominated world.

But what occurred to me this morning, as I read many quotes about baseball, was this. I started going to Opening Day to embrace a city I never wanted to come back to, because I did not want to leave my beloved Oregon. I committed to Opening Day, as a way to put my stake in the ground in this southwestern Ohio town and say, I’ll live here – until I go back.

I continued going to Opening Day, in recognition of time spent in my youthful twenties, beginning a career, meeting Devin, life filled with promises, cup filled with beer. And then, as a homage to Devin and his legacy. As always, this final loss caused me to act most passionately.

So, I came to be a Red’s fan, reluctantly, the way I come to most things in my life – a hesitant, reluctant widow then writer, wife to a Cincinnatian, a stepmother of teenage stepdaughters, mother to teenage son.

I could wax poetically about the time I spend with Davis each year, and how I usually find something about the game and the day that reflect on where we are in our relationship. While that is all true, I buy my tickets each year, now in my eleventh because Oregon is a plane ride away, if I need to touch base with sea. Because my new husband Mark and I are close to signing a piece of paper that will put me in close proximity to the start of the parade at Findlay Market, a purchase that will challenge and solidify our marriage for certain. Finally, I buy those tickets because it is not baseball the game that beckons me each year, but the constancy of the tradition that signals I am here to stay.


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