Today is Opening Day at Fenway Park
by Greg Cunningham, Blended Learning Specialist
It’s the worst-kept secret in offices, boardrooms and schools anywhere within striking distance of Fenway Park: people play hooky the day of the home opener. And why not?
In early April, young baseball fans find more to learn at the ballpark than in a classroom, and older ones more to do than in an office. In schools students are told to dream big, to imagine the impossible. Walt Whitman in Song of the Open Road sings “These are the days that must happen to you.” Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland asks “’Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” Exploring Wonderland, Alice realizes it is she who’s changing, not the world around her. She grasps to hold on to the innocence of childhood, a yearning all adults can relate to on opening day. What is the ballpark but a scene of eternal childhood?
As Alice’s dream challenges the reader to contemplate “the great mystery” of life, all dreams stretch our imagination, stimulate creativity, and prod us to search our souls for meaning. Teachers and students can study such visions in a classroom, but one must get out and see the world from time to time to find true inspiration. “Do anything, but let it produce joy.” Neither inspiration nor dreams will arise if the aspirant never actively seeks them.
Like Chaucer’s hopeful pilgrims setting off on their journey amid the sweet showers and tender shoots of April, Red Sox Nation begins its annual vernal pilgrimage. We move forward, as human beings always have, to the next frontier, the next odyssey, the next triumphant goal. For Red Sox Nation, that journey begins today, with a scintillating crackling of magic in the air. The sun, dimmed these many dreary months, blazes brighter, the sky gleams bluer, the floods of winter storms recede, and the sacred triangle of newgrown grass glows green as an emerald jewel. No alarm was needed to spring from slumber this morning. With each step, there is an extra bounce. Joy wells in our hearts and we almost giggle with excitement as the day progresses. Some friends, bosses or teachers will never understand. It is their loss, because today represents what spring is all about: rebirth, renewal, optimism and true faith, a day like no other in the calendar. Opening Day at Fenway Park.
Spring and baseball have long coexisted, and as clean white balls once again carom around the green park we know that life is renewed. On this day, we shrug off the negativity that grew in the gloomy corners of winter’s darkness. We embrace optimism; we dare to dream, to imagine, to wonder, to hope and above all to believe. These are lessons not to be learned indoors.
On this day, the child in all of us, the child who does not know any better but to believe good things will always happen, cheers as J.D. Martinez digs in at home plate, Mookie Betts snags a ball seemingly impossible to reach and Andrew Benintendi rounds the bag and stretches a single into a double.
Amid all the pomp and cacophony today, nestled between the announcement of the line-ups and the first pitch, a child will walk up the ramp to Fenway Park for the first time. The park, repainted and gleaming in unscuffed glory, will reveal a wall so high and vibrantly green that it will flood the child’s field of vision. The child will cheer for heroes, live demigods hitherto only shadowed in the pixels of the TV screen. Learning will commence, the lessons of those who came before us, who taught us our love of the game, ghosts from generations past rooting silently among us. The incense of peanuts will waft through the air and the communion of hot dog and beer will complete the day’s ritual. People sitting nearby will remember their own first day at Fenway and once again feel that exultant surge of joy that only children are supposed to feel.
As the game of 3s and 9s progresses, a sense of calm will descend from the heavens and drift into our minds and hearts, settling within us for the afternoon. This is the place where magic has happened before, and will happen again. Sitting among the friends we will always have, and the ones we have not yet met, the elements commingle in an alchemy of peace and joy in our hearts. The universe opens a small window to show us what heaven is like.
W.P. Kinsella wrote, “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.”
Could be good again. The belief that everything could be good again gets us through the long, dark winter and offers a paradigm of our own renewal and rebirth. These are the moments we treasure, the dreams we remember and pass along from generation to generation.
At the conclusion of Alice in Wonderland, Carroll writes “…and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood…remembering her own child life, and the happy summer days.” Our soul is renewed, somehow magically restored by the promise of approaching happy summer days. Lessons about dreams that originated in the classroom become tangible. Magic coalesces like cotton candy, so thick you can reach out and grab handfuls. This is what life should be all about, what it is about at least one day a year. Today is Opening Day at Fenway Park.
Greg Cunningham attended his first Red Sox game in 1978. He has been a season ticket holder since 2004.