- Faith and Fear in Flushing - http://www.faithandfearinflushing.com -

A Little Gift

Here we are, as in olden days, happy golden days of yore. It’s December. Snow lingers on the ground. We reflexively marvel at a picture of it on a baseball diamond [1]. Photographing such a landscape is an irresistible rite of wintertime passage. It’s the oxymoron of the hot stove league, a winter classic, like that New Year’s Day the Rangers and Sabres skated at Citi Field. It’s not what we’re used to in the context of the setting, but it comes, it goes, and we move on to what really belongs on all that grass and dirt. Not snow. Not hockey. Baseball.

The Baseball Equinox, that exact moment when we are as close to the first pitch of next season as we are to the final out of last season, is slated to arrive Thursday, December 24, 2020, at 6:55 PM Eastern Standard Time. It’s a mark we hit without fail. We do it here every year. We did it last year because we knew when the final out of 2019 was made and we knew when the first pitch of 2020 was to be thrown.

Or we thought we did.

The Baseball Equinox proved retroactively fallible last March through no fault of its own. The first pitch of what was then “next season” was postponed indefinitely. By the time it left Jacob deGrom’s right hand on July 24, the Equinox drifted from the end of December to…I don’t know. Somewhere in Spring Training, I guess, which also made a mockery of Spring Training’s stated purpose to get baseball ready for the immediately upcoming season. But that wasn’t Spring Training’s fault, just as the Baseball Equinox losing its chronological footing wasn’t a stumble on the part of a date on the calendar. While we’re not assigning blame, maybe take it easy on cursing out “2020” as if it was a knowing perpetrator of disappointment and devastation in our collective existence. The year was the field, not the game.

An Opening Night for the 2021 Mets has indeed been announced, at Nationals Park on ESPN, April 1, 7:08 PM EDT, 186 days and 26 minutes since the Nats finished pounding the Mets on Closing Day 2020. A Spring Training schedule has been announced, too, with the Mets hosting the Marlins in the first Grapefruit League game on February 27. Be sure to take your blood pressure medication if applicable, because all such schedules come with copious grains of salt.

As we learned in 2020, schedules aren’t necessarily worth the paper they’re rarely printed on anymore. Pandemics are the new rainouts. Vaccines are angling to be the new tarps. They’re also the big “we’ll see” of the baseball season. The NBA is tipping off tonight. The NHL drops its puck next month. They’re both showing up later than usual and playing through the public health raindrops, preparing to produce television content rather than the traditional shared fan experience. One way or another, we’re all still bubble-wrapped.

Baseball has a schedule but no certainty [2]. Maybe Spring Training starts in February. Or later. Maybe Opening Day comes on April 1. Or later. Seats will be filled. Or not. The “terms and conditions [3]” relating to ticket sales on mets.com includes a lengthy section regarding “COVID-19 and Other Infectious and/or Communicable Diseases, Viruses, Bacteria or Illnesses”. Things are somewhat hopeful (tickets are on sale), but nothing is guaranteed. Nothing was ever guaranteed, but it used to be you counted on a few things. One season ended, another was coming right on time. Time plays in its own league now.

Perhaps there’s no point counting down precisely to Pitchers & Catchers or Opening Day. But there’s always reason to look forward. You can believe in the Baseball Equinox. You just can’t take it as gospel. Then again, by the luck of the draw, it does show up on Christmas Eve this year. Maybe on December 24, come five to seven at night if you’re not otherwise distracted, look to the star of your choice to guide you forward.

I tend to look to deGrom, but that’s me.