The first time I experienced my knees knocking was the summer of 1974. It was opening day of the summer baseball season and as I stood along the first base line, I could not stop my knees from quivering. I’d always thought it was a figure of speech, but I was the body electric right through the announcements and the National Anthem. The mix of nerves, excitement, and dreams apparently is too much for the nervous system to handle. But the body and mind settled with a simple throw and catch. The arc of the ball, the smell and smack of leather is as soothing and mesmerizing as it gets for me—even decades later.
I am reminded of that day every opening day. Sports and baseball are different now, but some feelings are timeless. Seeing your oldest run out on the tennis court for a college match, or your youngest to his place on the base line, hat over heart, eyes to the flag—well, for me it’s as sweet as it gets on this path.
Opening day is a ritual of hope and wonder. It’s the blank page of the journal, the spark of what can be, and the first word in an unfolding story.
You lose a sense of time looking out to the green grass, the smooth dirt, and the blue sky. You could be anywhere at any time. And what holds you to the moment is what is good and pure. Play, playing or making a play reminds us we are all at our best when we feel alive. Being is in the living and as a soft breeze alights, I watch a senior take the field, his last high school opening day. My knees quiver just for a moment to honor history.
First batter, a deep breath. Here we go… The smack of the bat and a line drive seeks a place to land. I watch the sphere zip over the infield and a little boy now a young man runs wide-eyed to the spot. No different than the hundreds of balls he tracked down in our backyard field when he was four, five, six… Steadily, confidently in full flight he reaches down for the sinking liner. The smack of leather. First game, first out and the first line is written. For a moment I see the boy behind the strong chin and whiskers. Hit another one, Dad! Hit another one really far! Make me run!