BY KEVIN ALLEN AND KYLE KOSTER
It's said there's no such thing as a bad day of fishing. That extends to a day at the ballpark, which we were fortunate enough to experience Tuesday afternoon.
Baseball is back. Thank God, baseball is back.
Since the sport last left us in October, a Sox fan became the nation's first African-American president, the economy spiraled further out of control and a Kevin James movie has become the highest grossing film so far of 2009.
It's certainly been an emotional few months. To say it's good to be have baseball back in our lives is like saying Jim Thome's eighth-inning, three-run home run was "neat." The return of baseball to Chicago is everything we deserve after enduring brutal wind-chill factors, freezing rain and ousted governors.
As we took our seats in right-centerfield just in time to hear Chicago natives Matthew Santos and Lupe Fiasco provide an acoustic rendition of their hit song "Superstar," we quickly realized that not all U.S. Cellular employees were operating at mid-season form. It was amusing to see the Sox' promotional staff tackle their first between-inning segments with mixed levels of comfort. A beer vendor serving our section even went so far as to shush one beverage-seeker who dared draw his attention while he was handing someone else a brew. By mid-April these guys should have all the kinks worked out.
While a prevailing sense of optimism is nothing new on Opening Day, a culture of winning around U.S. Cellular Field has inspired higher expectations heading into a season as new as the Barack Obama-themed caps now sold in the New Era gift shop.
Maybe that's why the 37,449 fans seemed to be waiting for a big moment to erupt.
For a crowd that seemed subdued for the majority of the game, Thome's home run to the left-center bleachers interjected an immediate and tangible spirit that echoed the mantra of the team's most famous fan -- "Yes we can." Sox fans who'd been sitting on their hands for warmth lustily exchanged high-fives as chants of "Thome! Thome!" echoed just like they did after his division-clinching bomb last season.
The bundled-up crowd also didn't let an opportunity to rag on the Sox' neighbors to the north slip by. No sooner had Thome touched home plate than it was very loudly observed that the pitcher who served up the longball -- Kyle Farnsworth -- previously hurled for the Cubs.
"Once a Cub," shouted one red-faced fan, "always a Cub."
As the final out was recorded, fans frantically asked strangers if the Minnesota Twins had won the previous day. Even with 161 games remaining on the schedule, the South Siders wanted to know if they held sole possession of first place in the A.L. Central.
There's nothing like Opening Day to conjure such unbridled excitement, nothing like a baseball game to remind us of a fast-approaching summer and nothing like late-inning heroics to awaken a true fan's spirit.