I’ve been thinking a lot about the return of baseball season. I do this every March, but this year is a little different. This is the first Opening Day I’ve experienced after a huge win and a larger loss.
The San Francisco Giants are my National League team. They have been since I was little and we could listen to the Giants on KNBR after the sun went down (one of the few things I could do in Portland that I can’t do here in Seattle). With the Internet and MLB online radio, I can listen to the Giants again (without having to wait for sunset) and over the last few years, I have started to follow the Black and Orange more regularly. That made last fall, when the Giants won their first World Series title since 1954 and their first on the west coast, all the more special. On November 1st, 2010, I finally witnessed my team become the World Champions of Baseball. It was a wonderful feeling.
Nine days later, I was shocked out of my Giants championship euphoria. As anybody who knows me even slightly could tell you, my American League team, my hometown team, the team I watch more than any other and the team I’ve been a fan of the longest is the Mariners. And when I was growing up, Mariners baseball meant Dave Niehaus’ voice on the radio. I never met Dave in person, never had an actual conversation with him, but his voice was a large part of the soundtrack of my life. That’s why, when I saw the news on November 9th that Dave had passed away, I was stunned. Trying to imagine listening to the Mariners without hearing the regular cadences, phrases and funny stories that Dave always used is impossible for me. It won’t be the same, and it won’t be right.
I haven’t listened to any spring training games – I generally don’t – so I still haven’t heard a Mariners game since Dave died. His calls have shown up several times on the clip shows they run on MLB network: The Best 100 Games Since 1950, Prime Nine and similar shows. When I heard them, I was usually moved to tears. When the Mariners unveiled this year’s commercials, I watched them but I knew immediately that something was wrong: Dave’s voice saying the M’s slogan for the year was absent. It was just a small taste of what I’ll be feeling every day this summer when I listen to the Mariners: something important will be missing. I will be feeling that something is wrong for 162 games this season.
So I haven’t been as excited for Opening Day this year as I have been in years past. Sure, the Giants will have a new championship banner at scenic AT&T Park and they will compete in the National League for the championship. Sure, going to a game at SAFECO will still be a fun way to spend a few hours. Felix and Ichiro! will still do amazing things, and one of the young guys might become something special this season. But the Giants have some stiff competition and are no guarantees to repeat. And the Mariners have lost their voice.
I’m looking forward to Opening Day, but I’m also dreading it too.