Long before the Pirates and Cubs take the field this afternoon at 2:20 many of us legitimately wondered if we’d get here.
Fresh off the suspension of the 2020 Spring Training and the abbreviated 2020 baseball schedule and still living with COVID-19 as it makes its way around the country even while a vaccine scrambles to make an impact on the populous, having any semblance of a quasi normal 2021 baseball season seemed like a long shot.
Here we are though, Chad Kuhl and Kyle Hendricks will square off on the hallowed grounds of one of America’s oldest ballparks.
Every aspect of baseball took a punch in the mouth last year. Development, fan interaction, regular and routine baseball activity, even participation of players was virtually destroyed in the name of keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Kids who had no business on an MLB mound were forced into service. Players in general who had no business on an MLB mound somehow found themselves pitching in the 7th with a one run lead to protect.
19 year old first rounders were tossed in the line of fire with nothing more than what they knew in College.
Managers had to learn how to juggle extra bats and arms. GMs had to figure out how to patch holes with sometimes less than 24 hour notice.
Cold streaks were now bad seasons. One bad start now meant an ERA in the 5’s no matter what else you accomplished.
MiLB players went without pay largely and many were left on an island to figure out for themselves how to stay in baseball shape. Baseball towns all over the country were absent the sounds and sights of the game that for many defined them.
Some lost family, friends. Wives and girlfriends, sons and daughters, parents other loved ones had to read reports of COVID spreading through MLB and wonder if their person would be ok.
Was this worth it? What are we doing? Does this even matter?
All in the past now, but not gone. For oh so many reasons 2020 was a year that most of us would love to erase, and no, I’m not talking something as tangible as statistics.
The game survived, as did all the other leagues in the country. Scarred, bruised and battle tested MLB enters a season that will be bookended by a National disaster and a potential Labor disaster.
I’m going to enjoy this baseball season for a ton of reasons, and as an American I’ll enjoy it for a few more, but I can’t help but feel after what we and the game have been through, we don’t need to see a self inflicted wound this December.
If the players and league can’t see that reality, they truly better not return a still broken product. Fix it or push it off, but don’t destroy a second year of development for hundreds of prospects and intentionally take something away from a nation that has already given and had taken enough.
Baseball is back, and it needs to stay that way.