ST. LOUIS — Opening Day is the greatest day on the St. Louis calendar. Not just the St. Louis sports calendar, but the entire region's calendar. Every single year.
It's the one day that's a given. It's going to be there, and it's going to be special. Except for when it wasn't.
Yes there was technically an "Opening Day" for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in 2020, but I kind of view it as a "If a tree falls in the woods but there's nobody there to hear it, did it make a sound?" situation.
Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has had a much more devastating impact than just postponing a baseball game and not allowing fans in once it was able to be completed, but last year's faux opener kind of encapsulates the whole thing. The pandemic disrupted our normalcy, our routines. On Thursday we get to reconvene for our most cherished annual tradition, and maybe, just maybe, start to remember what "normal" ever felt like.
Sure there will only be around 30% capacity allowed in, but last year that number was zero.
At one point last year I walked out of the press box with my colleague Ahmad Hicks and we sat in the actual seats for a few batters. We were the only people in the entire place in the stands. That is except for what appeared to be John Mozeliak in the second deck along the third base line by himself.
It was eerie and kind of sad, but it was the best that could be done to at least give us baseball in some form or fashion.
Things will still be different this year. There will be masks. There will be socially-distanced hall of famers. There will be no parking lot tailgate parties. But there will be actual Cardinals fans inside Busch Stadium watching baseball. That's good enough for me.
Budweiser released a video Thursday revealing the famous Clydesdale hitch team would be making the ceremonial trek around the warning track. And I'd be lying if hearing "Here Comes the King" didn't make my breath catch for a second.
We're not there yet, but seeing those horses run around that warning track in front of masked-up baseball fans waiting to see a bunch of grown men play a kids game will be the closest to normal I've felt in a very long time.
Last year gave us a chance to appreciate what we have in a St. Louis Opening Day. It really is special. And when it's gone things just don't feel the same. This year feels like it could be the most special yet.
If all goes according to plan, it'll be Adam Wainwright pitching to Yadier Molina against the Milwaukee Brewers. That sounds right, doesn't it?
Nolan Arenado will receive one of the loudest ovations of the day even though he hasn't yet played a game wearing that iconic white St. Louis uniform with he birds on the bat. And he'll catch the ceremonial first pitch from the man he's been compared to so much, Scott Rolen. Pretty perfect.
We'll see some hall of famers from beyond center field and remember two pillars of the franchise in Lou Brock and Bob Gibson. Their legacy is secure and what they helped build endures.
And at some point on Thursday things will feel "normal" in St. Louis at least for a few hours. The magic of a Cardinals Opening Day.
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