The sports world returns to a little bit of normalcy this weekend with the start of the Major League Baseball season. After all, the calendar usually belongs to baseball and the “Boys of Summer.”
But four months after when the season should have started, teams will finally be able to hit the baseball diamond and play America's Pasttime.
Now, I realize that this year's baseball season will be far from normal in the way it's constructed. Only 60 games will constitute a regular season. The games will likely be played in empty stadiums the whole season. Cross-country trips will not be made this year. Braves fans no longer will have to stay up to 1 a.m. to see how their team fares against the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants on the west coast.
There will be no Mid-Summer Classic, also known as the annual All-Star game. And who knows if this season will conclude on time, if at all.
No, this season will be different but no doubt fun. Instead of a marathon, it'll be a sprint to the finish. Every game will matter as opposed to a usual 162-game schedule where a dry spell for two weeks doesn't end your season. This year it might.
What am I most excited about? I'm anxious to see Ronald Acuna Jr. strive for a 20-20 season; that's 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. He fell just short of the 40-40 milestone last year and talked about the potential of a 50-50 season this year before the coronavirus pandemic turned the world upside down and threw a monkey wrench into the baseball season. But a 20-20 season would be just as impressive in less than half of a normal season.
I'm excited to see highly touted youngsters Christian Pache and Drew Waters in the outfield. With Nick Markakis opting out of this season and Yasiel Puig not joining the Braves following his positive diagnosis for COVID-19, the Braves have spots open in the outfield alongside Acuna. While Ender Inciarte and Adam Duvall are likely starters along with Marcel Ozuna, if he's not the DH, Pache and Waters may see the ascension to playing time expedited.
I'm also curious to see what baseball games are like without fans. An empty stadium is sure to create an eery feeling among baseball enthusiasts. Even the thought of artificial crowd noise being implemented should be interesting if not weird.
I'm also intrigued to see how the pandemic plays a role during the season. Which stars will be sidelined because they've tested positive, just like Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was a few weeks ago? Will there be an outbreak that forces the cancellation or suspension of some games? Will there be a World Series?
At this point, I'm just glad to see some sports being played. So let's, “Play Ball.”
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder.