The Ghosts in the White Box
Hope springs eternal and the spirits of childhood dance in the bosom of Opening Day. The shape and style of your ticket might have changed. It might have gone from a small tear off “Admit One” to a QR code on your smart phone. Nonetheless, as you walk through the turnstile, you recognize and participate in a ritual over one hundred years old. A ritual of childhood that calls upon those who came before you.
I can close my eyes and see it. I clutch the hand of my son, like my father did before me. I make a left and walk through a tunnel to get from the concourse to our seats. It can be compared to nothing less than an out of body experience.
You walk up a hill. Trust me, it’s always a hill. You are in darkness, walking toward a non-descript warm bright light. When people talk about near-death experiences, walking toward the light, I always remark, “Are they going to Heaven? Or are they going to the Bronx?”
In reality, that walk is no more than twenty-four feet at the most. Nonetheless, it feels like forever. When you were younger, if you tried to run up it, the incline was always too much for your little legs. As you got older, there was always a crowd of tourists at the top of that hill, confused about the location of their seats.
As you approach the light, you feel an explosion. It’s an explosion of warmth, color and sound. No one ever talks about Heaven like this. Your life goes from black and white to 4K. You are Dorothy and you just stepped foot onto the yellow brick road.
The crowd roars as you reach the precipice of the tunnel. Are they cheering for you or the batting practice homerun? Does it matter? You feel like you might fall, but you’re not scared. You are pushed ahead by the ghosts of those who walked that tunnel decades before you. You can hear your eight-year-old-self telling your father to "move it." No wonder why the lost tourists look at you like you’re nuts. Don’t they understand? You have to get to your seat and you don’t want to, nay can’t, miss a thing.
You bathe in the warmth of the sun and optimism as you sit in your seat. The smell of Kentucky Blue Grass engulfs you. It’s the grass seed used by many northeastern professional baseball stadiums. It has a very distinct smell to it. If it could be bottled into a perfume, I would wear it.
I see so many ghosts on Opening Day. I see myself at eight. My father at twelve. My son at eighteen months old, as he stared at the field with the eyes of someone who just saw God. I wonder if Opening Day keeps these ghosts so vibrant. Without Opening Day, what would happen to them? What would happen to us?
In the movie “Moneyball”, they say, “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” Baseball is truly the most egalitarian thing we, as Americans, have to call our own. Every team has an equal number of players on it. When teams play each other, they must play by the same rules. They get the same amount of chances to succeed. It’s what they do with it, that is the difference maker. Even if one team has less talent than its opponent, they have a chance. Opening Day reminds us of all the infinite chances that lie ahead of us. My eight-year-old self. My twelve-year-old father. My eighteen-month-old son.
On March 13, 2020, the electricity was palpable. A large white box arrived at my house, with our family’s season tickets for this year. Opening Day was days away. Nevertheless, it was further away than we thought.
On March 14, 2020, the world began to shut down. The box sat on my table for a few days, then weeks. Two months later, it collects dust in an alcove after it was too unbearable to look at. The box, filled with unused tickets to an empty stadium, sits quietly in the dark. Its ghosts of optimism are trapped, fading away.