There’s a day, every winter, when it becomes clear that cold days are on the way out, and day by day, baseball season is inching closer. That day was yesterday, Sunday in New York. A relatively unimportant calendar date; not a recognized milestone by any stretch of the imagination. The hot stove was quiet; we hadn’t added a player or announced a big change; things were proceeding just about as they tend to during an offseason, or, in other words, painfully slowly. But that old cliche is still true. Sometimes, you just know.
At the north end of the reservoir in Central Park on Sunday, the Sun came out. It may have been out before then, but that’s when I noticed it. The air was no longer frigid. The park, while no blissful Summer paradise, took on a brightness usually associated with June or July. A few degrees warmer, and I swear I could have deluded myself into thinking it was Mets Jacket Weather.
January, 2017. Two years ago, January 2015, I made almost exactly the same walk. This time, it was a lap, starting and ending on the West Side. That time, I walked from East to West, coming home from an interview with a Yankees fan. The differences are superficial. It was the same walk. And the same thing happened.
That time, two years ago, the sun was out as I walked across the park, and I knew that baseball season couldn’t wait much longer. This time, for the most part, was the same. The sun was out, the worst of Winter appeared over, and it struck me that it was two weeks until first workouts, then a few more until games, then a few weeks after that until I would wake up early, filled with energy in a way that’s rare now that I’m no longer the young and restless kid I once was, knowing that later that day, we would play a game that would count for real. Baseball, in short, would be back. It was true then. It’s even truer today.
I wore my new Mets cap as I walked. The new caps have taken the internet by storm, or rather, the particular segments of the internet interested in such things; they are a combination of the alternate orange cap, which seemed new only yesterday and whose shine I’m still a fan of, and the classic blue background, orange letters. Four winters ago, David Wright was introduced at the press conference for his new contract, and the new orange brims were worn in public for the first time.
Those caps, whatever the cap-interested public thought of them, are gone now. The white-shadowed NY remains; the brim, however, is no longer orange, but blue. Among the die-hards, the white shadow alone is cause for alarm. The drop-shadow of the 90s and 2000s was poorly received, and in hindsight is even more reviled; is this too close to that? Should we be making changes to our caps at all? And, for that matter, what’s the deal with those road uniforms and caps with that strange combination of blue, orange, and light gray?
I didn’t think about that as I walked from East to West, enjoying the sun, little warmth though it actually provided. My new cap was beautiful. It still is; it’s on my head right now. My new t-shirt, purchased at the same time, orange and blue NY on a gray background, is just as much so. It’s only January — February soon, but still January. And I’m already set for baseball season. Well, I’m always set for baseball season. But a new cap and t-shirt can go a long way towards giving a Sunday in January that special baseball feeling.
It’s fitting, I suppose, that this took place around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon on a Sunday in New York. In ten weeks exactly, we’ll be at Citi Field, hearing Bobby Darin’s old-time classic on the speakers while the smells of ballpark food drift through the air. Well, actually, we won’t, because ESPN pushed that Sunday’s game back to 8:00 — thanks very much, ESPN, for ruining things that seem meant to be. But regardless, Sunday afternoon games are as close to an essential part of the season as possible.
Sunday afternoon at the ballpark — a day in the sun, watching my ballclub, Citi Field’s vast selection up for grabs for lunch, and all in all, about as perfect an end to a weekend as possible. And soon enough, it will all be back.
Bobby Darin, all those years ago, was absolutely right. New York on Sunday really is just what he says: a big city takin’ a nap, especially if the Sunday in question happens to fall in the middle of Winter. New York was sleeping; the empty fields, paths, and tennis courts in Central Park made that much obvious. But no one sleeps forever, and the sun always comes out eventually. We’re a big city, takin’ a nap through this long long winter of an offseason. But in New York, on a Sunday, just about as far from baseball season as you can get, I realized that our nap was quickly coming to an end, and that when we woke up, more quickly than we realized, there would be baseball.