There’s just something in the air this time of year. The days no longer feel so short. Those in school (or who work in them) can finally start to taste summer coming. This is also the start of my favorite season in sports: baseball season! It is opening day! 1
And even though we are in the midst of the third week of Lent, let’s look at how Opening Day (and baseball in general) are like the Easter we anticipate coming before too long.
1. New Beginnings, Fresh Starts, and Stories of Hope
Every year, there is a renewed sense of hope on the first day of the season. Whether your team has made the playoffs the last five years or has not made the postseason in fifteen years, there is a big 0-0 next to the team. All of our teams start with an equal record and, in theory, have the chance to make the playoffs. My own team, the Chicago White Sox, have not made the playoffs in ten years, and yet this year, as with every year, I have a childlike joy and hope that they just might make it this year (or at least make things interesting).
Similarly, Easter is the celebration of our hope as a Christian people. With the Resurrection, it’s a little like the season reset on humanity and we all wound up with a 0-0 record (death and sin no longer hold a victory over us). There is a hope and a renewed zest for life in the new beginning of Easter Sunday; what matters most is how we respond to this great gift of life.
2. Day Games and a Slowed, Reflective Pace
Opening Day offers a chance to enjoy one of the most pleasant experiences of baseball: a day game. The sun streams down on the teams, shadows messing with hitters’ or fielders’ vision. The game is over by dinner, and the evening is free. But more importantly, to watch an Opening Day game, you have to take some time away from the busyness of life to savor the slow-moving game.
In much the same way, Easter teaches us to savor the Good News of the Resurrection, a chance to look back on our history as humanity as well as a Christian people. 2 And we also look back and reflect on our own lives. But we cannot zoom through it; we must take it piece by piece, or play by play, and savor the stories and the moments, letting them fill our days.
3. The Rise of Young Talent
With each new season, there are always some new prospects making their first Opening Day starts. Likewise, there are young and scrappy teams that showed promise last year. How do they look on their first day in the new year? How will the new talent be molded by the veterans and respond to the challenges of this new season? How does the growth and maturity from the previous year combine with that youthful swagger or enthusiasm?
The Easter season reminds us of the rise of the next (or first) generation of the Church. Looking back, we see the apostles come from being hapless rookies with Jesus to a group of people who spread the Gospel message to the ends of the world, gave their lives for it, and became a great set of leaders (even though none of them ever batted 1.000, even after the Resurrection and Pentecost). Inspired by the example of the first disciples, we are the new leaders and young talent continuing this work today, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Easter spirit, we preach the Gospel in our lives and actions.
4. A Day of Surprises
While the first day of the season is not the make-or-break for any team, the first day can be filled with surprises. We could see great pitching performances, homers from the string-bean outfielder, or web gems like this one. 3 We never know what will happen on Opening Day. The season is built on how the teams respond to these great surprises beginning on day one.
We cannot ever undervalue the splendid surprise of the Resurrection, of the first Easter Sunday. Nobody could see the Resurrection coming; you could say that it “came out of left field.” And all of Christianity is built on the response the disciples had to Jesus’ appearances to them and his continued presence among them.
5. Opportunities for Redemption
A new year brings with it an opportunity to recover from the previous year and all of its mistakes. A player or team can make a huge rebound from one season to the next based on any number of factors. Maybe it just involves taking a step away from it all in the off-season and coming back with fresh eyes. No matter what, Opening Day offers each player a chance to atone for the mistakes of the previous season and try again.
It goes without saying that Easter provides us with the chance to be redeemed and to try again as we walk this life of faith. Each year we are reminded of the chance to start fresh and share in the hope of another year, one that is sure to still have mistakes, but one where we can grow and improve in our relationship with God and one another.
6. The Season Lasts Forever and a Day
One thing people often gripe about with baseball is the length of the season: they say that 162 games is far too many. But I personally love the length of the season. After that length of time, there is so rarely a team that makes the playoffs that has not earned its right to be there. On the first day of the season, we embark on this long journey. The hope, promise, and excitement of it all is held together in that first game.
The Easter season is also a long one, although few would actually argue that it is too long (especially after Lent). The season lasts fifty full days, or seven weeks. We need to celebrate this event for all those weeks so that we remember how central it is to our lives as Christians. It is too easy to lose sight of the magnificence of Easter, so seven weeks can go from “a long time” to “long gone” before you know it.
7. A Chance to Bond with People over the Game and its History
Baseball is all about its history: “the American pastime.” Baseball doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There likely was someone who introduced you to the game or someone with whom you could share the stories of your childhood heroes and moments. We remember the best seasons, the magical moments, the critical games won and lost. And going to baseball games is a wonderful social event. Games move slowly enough that you can spend time with friends or family and enjoy the game unfolding while catching up on life during breaks between pitches or innings.
In much the same way, the Christian faith is something that has a history and that never happens in a vacuum. We are part of a family, a group, a community. We share our past together and revisit those key moments that shaped us as a people in a special way. We laugh and cry, mourn and celebrate together as a church, and because of that, the story continues and grows.
These are just a few of the ways that Opening Day reminds me of Easter. What are some other ways that come to your mind?
Image courtesy of FlickrCC user Bryce Edwards.
- Unless you’re the Oakland A’s or the Seattle Mariners who played their first two games last week in Japan. ↩
- During the Easter season, the Church continues to reflect on the stories of the early Christian community by reading from the Acts of the Apostles in the liturgies. ↩
- This play is still one of my all-time favorites! ↩