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Starting fresh at 0-0: optimism on Opening Day

Let's see more smiles like this in the regular season.
Let's see more smiles like this in the regular season.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Later today, just after 4 pm Eastern, the first pitch of the first game of the 2014 Blue Jays season will be thrown, and with that, we will leave the disappointing offseason and pre-season to enter into the gruelling 162-game six-month long regular season. The Blue Jays will enter the game with a fresh 0-0 record, with all their previous success and failures counting for nought in the standings. However, the failures of the 2013 season and the subsequent offseason might still be in the minds of the fans.

Since I fell back in love with baseball a few years ago, I had not felt any less interested and less optimistic about an upcoming season of Blue Jays baseball than I felt during spring training this year. Although the logical side of me recognized that there is a very good chance that the club will play better than it did last season, and that there are many good things to be excited about, the hurt I felt from last year was still too great. The absence of major acquisitions to improve a 74-88 team that finished last in its division certainly did not inspire optimism. Meh was how I felt about the upcoming season.

This weekend I took the train to Montreal, where I had tickets for two pre-season games between the Blue Jays and Mets at Olympic Stadium. The experience was incredible, I had a lot of fun at those two games and almost lost my voice both days. Something about this weekend trip allowed me to find that passion and optimism that had been slowly dissipating since the end of the 11-game win streak last June. Maybe it was seeing live baseball, or being in a stadium filled with loud, excited fans, or experiencing two great Jays wins featuring a Ricardo Nanita walkoff and Aaron Sanchez striking out the side, or talking baseball with friends, or realizing how lucky I am to live in a city with Major League Baseball. Maybe all of the above.

It's a different kind of optimism than the kind I felt this time last year. I have no illusion about how many things have to go right for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs or even play meaningful games in late September, but I think it could happen. The offence and bullpen can be really good, we could see Brandon Morrow bounce back and pitch to his fullest potential, Drew Hutchison can take a big step forward, and Marcus Stroman could step in and make a positive impact when he gets called up later in the season. It could happen. And of course I'm interested in seeing Dustin McGowan back in the starting rotation--something that I didn't think had any real chance of happening back in January. McGowan has come all the way back, now we get to see if he will get a storybook ending. For me, today is exciting because we would start to see if what could be will be.

Yes, last year hurt a lot, but with the first pitch this afternoon, hopefully as Jays fans can finally discard the pain of the past and start anew with a 0-0 record and looking forward a season of exciting plays, breakout players, intriguing storylines, and possibly even a few wins. That is why I'll be watching Blue Jays baseball this season.

On a more personal note, today also marks the end of my time as an assistant editor here on Bluebird Banter. Because of increased workload outside of the site, I have had to scale back my contributions this year (as you may have noticed) and I am no longer able to put in as much time as I need to fulfil my duties. However, even though I won't be quite as involved any more, you will still be able to find me around here with occasional pieces. My time here at this blog has been absolutely wonderful and I hope my involvement will continue far into the future. I have made a lot of friends here, and I still get tickled knowing that people read what I write. Thank you for clicking, reading, and commenting, and of course...