Opening Day has always been much more than the start of a new baseball season. For the players and teams, it marks a new opportunity. For some, it is a chance to put physical or statistical shortcomings behind them. For others, it’s finding someway to harness past success and release it in time for a brand new campaign. And for many, it’s the first taste of playing in front of the tall buildings.
From the fan perspective, Opening Day is a celebration of the past, and a time to party and look towards the possibilities of the future. Who will surprise? Who will disappoint? Is our team destined for play in October?
Here in Detroit, I don’t think there’s been a more intriguing Opening Day than this year’s in 2014. Considering what Jim Leyland did here in his eight seasons of managing and considering what he didn’t accomplish, Brad Ausmus has inherited an unprecedented amount of pressure for a manager or coach in Detroit sports history. And on the heels of the worst and longest winter in recent memory, along with the fact that Brad Ausmus has yet to manage a game as a Major League Baseball manager, there is a lot of anxiety in Tiger Town as fans hope that Ausmus can assure us that this baseball season will be more than a symbol of summer, it will be one of the reasons we remember the summer of 2014.
That being said, Brad Ausmus taking over for Jim Leyland has me a little nervous. A young, rookie manager taking over a veteran clubhouse; there’s uncertainty there. And in the Detroit sports world, uncertainty scares me. I have full confidence in Brad Ausmus. Hearing him do interviews and press conferences, and noticing that he won’t make any grandiose public claims on a star-crossed bullpen makes me think that he definitely knows what he’s doing. But if Jim Leyland came back in 2014, you’d know what you’d be getting. You’d feel really confident that at the very least, the post-season and perhaps an AL pennant was almost a shoo-in.
This doesn’t mean that Brad Ausmus isn’t going to run away with the first Tigers World Series victory in 30 years, but you can see why I’m anxious on this Opening Week.
I liken it to another one of my obsessive passions similarly being taken over by a newbie.
Fall 2012 was a strange time for me. It was the first time I was out of work and had no school to go back to. Things in my life weren’t clear. And to make things worse, the Tigers got swept in the World Series. One afternoon, I returned to my car from an exhausting hour at the gym, ready to return the mundane life of fall unemployment. To my surprise, however, I was greeted with a ton of notifications; some from friends I talked to every day, and many from friends who haven’t texted me in ages. It was the kind of activity I had on my phone when the Tigers signed Victor Martinez or when they made a massive deal with Prince Fielder. Ya see, I’ve made such a reputation for myself in my circles, be it work, school, friends or social media—-there are two things that everyone wants my opinion on, my two greatest fan passions: the Detroit Tigers and Star Wars.
That fall afternoon, I got the texts from multiple friends and acquaintances who all wanted to be the first one to tell me that the unthinkable was happening: Star Wars episodes VII, VIII and XI would indeed be happening, and they would be produced by Disney, who also bought Lucasfilm. The first and only important thought went through my head:
Well who’s gonna do it if it’s not George Lucas?
Obviously, George Lucas hadn’t directed every Star Wars movie to date. He missed out on taking the helm for Empire and Jedi, but they were still his movies. They were his stories and he had the final say on everything. And you can say what you want about the prequels, but they were genuine. They were the stories that George wanted to tell and the visuals George wanted to show. Because while they have their faults (and yes, they have their faults), the prequels, at heart, still always felt like George Lucas Star Wars flicks. They still had that me-against-the-world, independent filmmaking feel to them.
Owned now by the biggest media conglomerates of all time, would the Disney Star Wars films be Star Wars films?
It all had to do with who directed it. And the chase was on. My choices, which didn’t matter to anyone important, were unpopular ones. I wanted Matthew Vaughn, Dave Filoni or Genndy Tartakovsky. Vaughn had an outside shot, but let’s be honest, Kathy Kennedy and Disney needed a big name. And they got the most obvious and trustworthy choice in J.J. Abrams. He knows Star Wars. He knows story. He knows action. And he knows lens flares.
The perfect choice.
Yet, there is still trepidation in my heart, as there is with Brad Ausmus and the uncertainty he brings to a new Tigers team. Though, we have to give them a chance, and we know that both of them are capable. And as George Lucas will, no doubt, be there to guide the young J.J. Abrams, Jim Leyland won’t be far from lending advice to Brad Ausmus, if he asks for it. As a new baseball season begins, it’s time for Kale to let go of the Jim Leyland administration, and allow for this team to be Brad Ausmus’. It’s time to let go and welcome a new era.
I have no doubt it will be a rough start for Brad and the 2014 Tigers as they struggle to find their groove with the new personnel. Not dissimilar to J.J. Abrams and Kathy Kennedy, who already went through one screenwriter and pushed the release date. But at the end of the day, I still foresee the Tigers making it back to the post-season for a fourth straight year, and I trust—that with all that is on the line—J.J. and company will deliver more than homerun, and add only good to a galaxy far, far away.