Flashback Friday Moment of The Week: 3/21/2014

by Just Juan

So the 2014 Major League Baseball officially kicks off early tomorrow morning with the Dodgers taking on the Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia. Don’t ask me why games that count in the American pastime are being played on a different continent. It’s whatever. I honestly just want to see my Dodgers take out the snakes and start the year 2-0. All of this, however, reminds me of the Opening Series back in 2008, when I was living in Tokyo.

How I first came across this moment? Interesting enough, I came across the moment in Iraq…of all places. It was late December, right around Christmas, and I was working my usual 7pm-7am shift. There wasn’t anything going, no attacks of any kind. That actually leads me to believe what G. Callen said on an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles last season: “terrorists take off Christmas too…even criminals don’t like being on the naughty list”. Anyway, I logged onto ESPN.com that night and for the first time since the World Series ended a few months earlier, I checked out the MLB page. And there it was…a story about the 2008 season opening at the Tokyo Dome. When I got back home from the Iraq deployment, one of my first stops was to the Yokota Air Base Information Tickets & Travel office, where I secured a ticket to the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. All I had to do wait on time.

What it meant to me then? I’ve been a fan of baseball since Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. It’s an ages-old story. I was 3 years old at the time and Kirk Gibson hit the famous walkoff homer. Legend has it that when it happened, I walked to the television and started touching it. I been a Dodgers fan since. In all of my time of being a baseball fan, I had never experienced an opening day. Growing up in Birmingham, we didn’t have a major league team and I didn’t have the resources to make the trip to Atlanta back then to see the Braves. Even in college, at The Ohio State University, I didn’t want to drive up to Cleveland or down to Cincinnati to check out the major league teams on opening day. I was much too concerned about spring break. But I was at the right place at the right time in Tokyo. It was a chance to see the Boston Red Sox, one of the most recognizable teams in all of professional sports. It was a chance to see my then-favorite player, Manny Ramirez. It was a chance to see how the Japanese viewed the American game in comparison to their own brand.

What it means to me now? Opening Day, here Stateside, is a little under 2 weeks away. Major league stadiums all across the country will be at 100% capacity…for some, it’ll be the only such occasion all season. The grass will look perfect. The food smell will be enticing. Unfortunately, I won’t experience an Opening Day in 2014. I could easily attend the Atlanta Braves opener but I recently committed to not venturing into the city limits again so I’ll pass on that opportunity. However, I will be in the DC area for a conference next month so I’ll at least get to take in the major league experience at Nationals Park and Camden Yards in DC and Baltimore, respectively. It won’t be nothing close to an Opening Day but I’ll be there next year…in Los Angeles in the Right Field Pavillion at Dodger Stadium cheering on Big Blue as they play their first home game of the 2015 season.

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