Opening Day...or not.

It's Opening Day for major-league baseball, though only two teams actually see action today. Twenty-six, including the Diamondbacks, kick things off tomorrow, and the Padres and Giants won't get into play until Tuesday. Not sure I like this: I'd rather the season didn't have a 'false start' like this, and just got under way in full effect. Maybe that's just because I am so ready to see how the team does this year, I don't want to wait any longer. I'll still probably scope out tonight's game between the Mets and Cardinals, but that'll be like watching CineMax porn while knowing you've got a date tomorrow with Jenna Jameson. Definite score. :-)

Shame that tomorrow's game is during the day though: I'll be reduced to clicking on Gameday surreptitiously near the bottom of my screen at work, though I'll Tivo the contest for later review when I get home. However, watching baseball when you already know the final score is about one-tenth as much fun. Yeah, I guess I could stay off the Internet and not hear the result, but do you really think I have that much willpower? For the first game? Of the most eagerly anticipated Diamondbacks season in quite a few years? I think not: no, I'll be refreshing the page with the best of them.

But that's for tomorrow, and who knows what that might bring? Today is Opening Day, a time for unbridled optimism, regardless of the team you support, and also a chance to reflect on the spirit of the game. That's beautifully summarized in this article, which points out nine lessons - one for each inning - that baseball can teach us about life. Here's my favorite of them:

Batting .300 is a mark of success. Put another way: Even the best hitters fail 70 percent of the time. Take Henry Aaron. The game's greatest slugger struck out 1,383 times along the way to his record 755 dingers. He walloped homers in 6 percent of his official at-bats and whiffed in 11 percent. But no one would call Hammerin' Hank a failure. So what does this teach us? It's simple...

Failing doesn't make you a failure.

Too often, fear of failure keeps us from succeeding. Imagine Aaron or Ruth or Mays afraid to step up to the plate because he stands a better chance of making an out than ripping a hit. John Grisham's first book, A Time to Kill, reportedly was rejected by more than 20 publishers. Today, the attorney-turned-author's novels are megasellers. In the movie Apollo 13, flight director Gene Kranz says, "Failure is not an option." It's a memorable line but a monumental lie. Failure is indeed an option. It has to be; otherwise, we will never succeed.

Certainly, remember that we're in this for the long haul; the Diamondbacks' season will not be decided by what happens tomorrow, nor probably what happens in the first week - and even the entire month of April is just a small fraction of the season to come. Worth bearing in mind that the odds are, this season, we'll lose 70-80 times - and that would still be considered a good year. Is there any other sport where you can fail so often, both as an individual and as a team, and still succeed?

Interesting series of articles today, as both the Tribune and the Republic preview the season and the Diamondbacks' prospects. Time for a link dump, I think: plenty to chew on below, and tide you over until tomorrow.

  • Dawn of a new era for the Diamondbacks - "Change is inevitable. I think it was a perfect time for a total change, to tell you the truth. With the addition of all these younger guys, this is a new Diamondbacks team. This is not something the Valley has seen before." -- Conor Jackson

  • Diamondbacks' defense constructed for West's larger ballparks - "Outfield defense, especially in our division, is a pretty important tool. There are so many games in big ballparks, the outfielders have to be able to run the ball down... It makes a good marriage, a ground ball pitcher and good infield defense. But we also have some pitchers who are a little more fly ball-oriented, and we like the defense behind them." -- Josh Byrnes

  • Offense predicated on aggressiveness, depth - "We have a lot of guys who are going to hit between .280 and .300. You can do a lot of good things doing that. The way our offense is built, it is built on putting the ball in play. We can shoot guys all over the field, cause havoc on the bases. We've got some speed. We've got guys who are good hitters. I don't think anybody is worried about the offense." -- Chad Tracy

  • D-Backs' starting rotation loaded with horses - "Everybody changes a little. But I would say, probably less than most guys, he hasn't had to reinvent himself. It is the same the same repertoire, the same approach, the same results that he has had for a long time. He's primarily a fastball-slider guy. Obviously left-handed hitters are uncomfortable and right-handed hitters get the fastball in and the slider under the hands. That's his core approach, and it's been successful for 280 wins and hopefully a lot more." -- Byrnes, on Randy Johnson.

  • And speaking of RJ: Johnson's first start likely April 18 or 19 - "Johnson is scheduled for three minor-league appearances before making his D-Backs season debut, likely on April 18 or 19 at San Diego. The tentative schedule has Johnson pitching on Tuesday in an Arizona minor-league intrasquad game in Tucson, on April 8 for Single-A Visalia at Modesto, and April 13 for Triple-A Tucson against Colorado Springs."

  • D-Backs poised for long ride on wave of talent - "There are no guarantees in baseball. Today's prospect is tomorrow's has-been. If we knew that Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Miguel Montero and Justin Upton were going to become stars, we wouldn't be writing this column. We'd be in Las Vegas. But, if first impressions are any indication, the Diamondbacks are about to take their fans on a long, enjoyable trip. And it's about time." -- Scott Bordow

  • New look, new hope - "They climbed the organizational ladder with stunning haste, compiling eye-popping numbers and eliciting nods from the guys who fill out scouting reports. They hit line drives with such consistency that, were all things equal, they would have been here at this time a year ago. All things weren't equal, though, not with veterans and contracts and the business end of baseball blocking the way of the most promising crop of young hitters in Diamondbacks history. The path is clear now. Their time has come and it could last a while." -- Nick Piecoro

  • D-Backs banking on farm system to contain costs - "Ideally, that would mean the current young core of players - Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Conor Jackson, Stephen Drew, et al - helps the club climb in the standings while generating interest and excitement. That could translate into increased revenue and a jump in attendance, which, Kendrick said would allow the club to follow the Atlanta Braves' model from recent years in which they fielded a mix of young players and All-Stars supported by a payroll in the upper third of major league teams." -- Nick Piecoro

  • Plan of patience poised for payoff - "There's always disappointment when you don't win. But this team, as opposed to those previous teams, is built with a real core of young, dynamic players, and as we progress, I think we're looking at a team that's going to be better at the end of the season than it is at the beginning of the season as these young players emerge." -- Ken Kendrick

Wherever you are, whatever team you support, today, we come together as baseball fans, and celebrate the game we love. There will be ups and downs to come, wins and losses for every franchise - but regardless, we'll still all enjoy the season, and what it brings us. Here's to all that is good in the sport, and also to everyone who follows it. I'll finish with another quote from the first article linked in this entry:

"Maybe this is heaven." And, indeed, maybe it is - home, family, baseball. What more could anyone ask? Walt Whitman was right. "The game of ball is glorious." So is life. There you have it. Baseball is motivating and liberating. It shows us how to work, how to play and how to rest. It teaches responsibility and resilience. It showcases the beauty of diversity and the necessity of adversity. It is inspired and inspiring. Not bad - for something that's just a game.
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