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A message from the bishop

Reflections on Opening Day (April 2016)
 
My dear friends,
We are in the Easter season, replete with its joyful acclamation “Alleluia!” The season will continue for 50 days, since we have so much to celebrate in recalling the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is another season, though, which starts one week after the Easter season. It extends throughout most of ordinary time
and is much longer than 50 days. Its joyful proclamation is not “Alleluia,” but “Play ball!”
 
The baseball season was to begin on April 4. The Tigers were to play their opening day game against the Miami Marlins in Miami on April 5. Their home opener will be against the Yankees on Friday, April 8. These landmark dates tell us that not only has spring arrived, but also that summer is drawing near.
 
There is a festive air at ballparks on opening day, with the red, white and blue bunting bedecking the stands, and the excitement that comes with starting something new, and even hopeful. On opening day, every team is tied for first place.
 
In my long tenure as a baseball fan (I attended my first major-league game in 1959), I have been to three home openers. The first was in 1967, when I was in eighth grade. I don’t remember who won, but I do remember that I lost my perfect attendance award for that year. I also remember that the Lorain (Ohio) bus did not bother to stop for four eighth-graders trying to flag it down! We ran back to my house with the bad news. My mother had to drop everything and drive us downtown to Cleveland’s Municipal  Stadium. We still arrived in time for the first pitch!
 
My second opening day came in 1988, when I was a faculty member at St. Mary Seminary. Whereas in 1967 I only needed a windbreaker, in 1988 I needed a snowsuit! The game started at 4 p.m. amid swirling snowflakes and a temperature of 34 degrees. Amazingly, the Indians shut out the Baltimore Orioles 3-0, with Scott Bailes earning the win. The other thing I remember was that several religious sisters were sitting in the row directly behind us, and one of them spilled her 16-ounce cup of Coca-Cola all over the back of my parka.
 
My most memorable opening day was in 1994, the first in the Indians' brand-new stadium, Jacobs Field (now known as Progressive Field). Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla gave me two tickets to the game, which I attended with fellow faculty member Father Jerry Bednar. President Clinton threw out the first pitch amid tight security. It was a beautiful day, but it almost turned into a real downer. Seattle pitcher
Randy Johnson took a no-hitter into the seventh inning! I thought, “I can’t believe the Indians are going to be no-hit in their first game in the new ballpark!” But the Indians miraculously tied the game in the seventh and won it on an RBI single by Wayne Kirby in the 11th. God is good! The Indians have won many games in that stadium, but their most important victory, I believe, was that opening day 22 years ago.
I attended many Indians games while on the seminary faculty. Faculty member Father Tom Tifft was one of the biggest baseball fans I ever met. He could be persuaded to go to the ballpark at the drop of a hat. Father Tifft actually preferred National League-style baseball over the AmericanLe ague – he never accepted the designated hitter – and every summer he would drive to Cincinnati to see a few National League games. Once, I asked Father Tifft if he was going to opening day. He replied, “David, I never go to an opening day game. The real baseball fans go to the second game.” He didn’t seem to mind all those April evening games when the temperature was in the 30s.
 
These reflections on opening day in baseball remind me of all the wonderful and enjoyable aspects of life. All things God made are good, and each serves its turn! That goodness includes playing baseball or being a spectator. The same can be said of all of our hobbies and pursuits, from crocheting to gardening and birding and beyond. Let us enjoy the special delights of each season of the year, and thank God for his goodness to us!
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak