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The most wonderful day of the year!

Happy Monday, campers!  I have a little extra spring in my step today, despite Kentucky's loss in the NCAA Final Four on Saturday evening.

Why, you ask?  It's OPENING DAY of the baseball season!

This is a big deal in my family.  I am an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds, as regular visitors to this space will attest, and, in Cincinnati, this is a REALLY big deal!  How big?  School is out, and they actually have a parade--the Findlay Market Parade!  For the uninitiated, the Reds played for many years at a location in the city near the Findlay Market, which is an indoor/outdoor marketplace that operates to this day, hence the parade name and location!  The parade generally features a couple of members of the current team (easier this year because the Reds don't play until 4:10 PM today) and the grand marshal is often someone with a historical connection to the team--former player, broadcaster, etc.

Anyway, my local tradition began not long after my wife and I married nearly 29 years ago.  Because the city of Cincinnati (which I proudly point out is the city of my birth, by the way) more or less shuts down, I do, too, so that I can enjoy the day without the distraction of, you know, a job.  So I'm off work today, for the umpteenth year in a row.

I can recall a Grinch-like boss who was up to no good and insisted I join a "critical" conference call this day a few years ago (it was far from critical) and then board a plane DURING THE GAME in order to be in position for a meeting the following morning.  The real shame of that was that my plane was delayed enough that, had I known it would leave Lexington late, I could have watched the entire game!

Not expecting any such complications today.  My current company has a policy that frowns on people working during company holidays or paid time off, so I expect to be left alone in that respect!

But let's consider why this is such a great day---it's the return of the baseball season, the six months of the year that I prefer to the OTHER six.  Every team has a chance to be a winner, as almost all have a won-lost record of 0-0 (the heathens of ESPN and MLB insist on playing an opening game on the Sunday night before the first Monday of April, so the Cubs and Cardinals played last evening).  Ballparks don't have that lived-in feel yet, so everything is clean.  There's a good crowd on hand to see every game today, which won't be the case in some towns in just a couple of weeks.  And it just FEELS like springtime!

I've had the honor of attending the Reds' Opening Day game three times, but other than last year, I could not tell you the years.  Once was when my son was just a kid, and the Reds played in Riverfront Stadium, which opened in 1970 and was where my baseball obsession grew up.  We got a little mixed up and were on the wrong side of the afore-mentioned Findlay Market Parade, and by the time we got back to the waterfront area and parked and into the ballpark and in our seats, the game was JUST about to start!

The second and third times were more recent, and both were at the Reds' current home, Great American Ball Park.  I won a lottery that allowed me to buy tickets and did so a few years ago.  The Reds played the New York Mets that day, and came from behind in the bottom of the 9th inning to win.  I remember distinctly that we had moved down from our original position to the left-field stands, where we saw the game-winning homer by Joe Randa sail over our heads to the left of us.  Last time I picked up my son in a bear hug, too!

As I mentioned we also went last year.  I happened to be transitioning to a new job and was off work that day.  My son called from work and said, you're not going to believe it, but I just got offered tickets for today's game, and my boss is letting me off work.  So we went, and while the Reds lost to the hated St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 1-0, it was just wonderful being there with him (as it always is).

My son's son will turn four in a month or so.  He's playing Wee Ball this year for the first time, and because his dad and I are such baseball fanatics, he is, too, and already has pretty good skills compared to the other little guys and gals he plays with.  Soon this tradition will expand to include him wherever possible.

I'll say one more thing about the folks who run Major League Baseball--Opening Day used to kind of BELONG to the Reds, in recognition of the team being the oldest operating professional ballclub.  They were always afforded the honor of starting first.  Fifteen or so years ago, another team started five minutes earlier than the Reds, and once that happened, the Reds were not considered that special, except that they always open the season at home.  I suppose that's something.

So if you can, get yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack and take in a ballgame today, whether in person or on TV from your home.  It'll do you good!

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