The 2009 Major League Baseball season starts on Sunday night, when the Atlanta Braves visit the Philadelphia Phillies. On Monday, 13 more clubs will host their Opening Day games. We asked a distinguished group of fans — one for each of MLB’s 30 teams — to account for their passion. (Teams are listed in alphabetical order by city within their division — we’re making no predictions on the order of finish. ) …
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
WHY I LOVE THE COLORADO ROCKIES
If you love baseball, it’s easy to love the Colorado Rockies, even though it’s even money that they’ll break your heart. It’s baseball the way we believe it once was, and can still be. Players little noted outside of Colorado. Just guys, not brands. No celebrities here, thanks all the same. Guys with names that sound like they work for a living: Tulowitzki, Barmes, Spillbourghs, Street. They go to work at a fan’s ballpark, nestled in a neighborhood. On an afternoon, you can knock off work at lunchtime, walk down to the ballpark and you sip your beer and eat your hot dog and wipe the mustard off the scorecard. And let your Blackberry buzz. Just baseball, played by good men with heart and guts and skill, with the added attraction of a panorama of snowcapped mountains over the left-field fence.
The boys might break my heart, or we might have a repeat of Rocktober 2007. Either way, if I don’t email you back on an afternoon when the Rox are in town, I’m probably at 20th and Blake. My summer home.
— Sean Duffy is a principal at the Kenney Group, a public-relations and political consulting firm in Denver.
WHY I LOVE THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS
In 1981, a portly Mexican rookie named Fernando Valenzuela started pitching for the Dodgers. In game after game, he would get into tight jams and then, like Houdini, he would escape using his left-handed delivery and wicked screwball. Miraculously, he won his first eight decisions, becoming an instant phenom and going on to win Rookie of the Year, the Cy Young, and a World Series ring.
My dad and I listened to every Dodgers game on our AM radio that season. We got to know all the players thanks to announcers Vin Scully and Ross Porter. Steve Garvey, with arms like Popeye’s, Ron Cey, nicknamed “the Penguin,” and slugger Pedro Guerrero were regular guests in our family room. To this day, I can still hear Vin Scully describing a “lazy can of corn to left field.” He taught me about baseball, and he made me love the Dodgers.
— David Nott is president of the Reason Foundation.
WHY I LOVE THE SAN DIEGO PADRES
The first padre in San Diego was Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra. In 1769, he founded Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first European settlement in California. Exactly two centuries later, in 1969, the San Diego Padres played their inaugural major-league season. It’s easy to love this young franchise. The roster has included names such as Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, and Trevor Hoffman. Yet the moniker “Mr. Padre” belongs to Tony Gwynn, the hitting great who spent his entire 20-year career with our team.
Looking ahead, we Padres fans are optimistic the team will exceed its 2008 last-place finish in the NL West. In San Diego, more than anywhere else in America, one can hardly be blamed for such “blue-sky” thinking.
— Michael Hirshman, a senior at UC-San Diego, is the founder and former editor of The Triton, a student publication.
WHY I LOVE THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
The San Francisco Giants don’t have the star-crossed reputation of the Red Sox of old or the Cubs of today, but the team has yet to deliver a championship since relocating from New York 51 years ago. Could this be the year? Blind hope springs eternal by the Bay.
My experience with baseball started in Canada. On Fridays, my uncle took me to the games of the Vancouver Mounties, a now-defunct farm team for several major-league squads. I remember loving doubleheaders and the seventh-inning stretch.
I never would’ve imagined that I’d end up in San Francisco, making the short trip from my office to the most beautiful park in baseball. In this famously liberal city, the game transcends ideological lines. As we look out over the diamond and McCovey Cove, we are all Giants fans first.
— Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.