Dennis Lyons

I’d been all set to start today’s column with how pumped-up I was after Thursday’s Opening Day for Major League Baseball.

Few days are sweeter for baseball fans than Opening Day, and with my New York Mets looking like they actually might be a contender this season, I couldn’t wait.

Then, shortly before lunchtime on Thursday, the news broke. The Mets’ scheduled season opener against the Washington Nationals in D.C had been postponed due to COVID-19 issues. On Friday, it was announced the entire season-opening series was postponed.

According to The Washington Post, hours after the decision was made, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo announced that three Nationals players had tested positive this week, and a fourth player likely has, too.

Thankfully, all but one other Opening Day game went as scheduled on Thursday. (The Orioles and Red Sox were postponed the old-fashioned way — by rain.) And the Yankees lost their home opener, so the day wasn’t a total loss for me.

But the Nationals’ COVID-19 issues loomed over all of Major League Baseball, just as the virus still hangs like a cloud over all of us.

This Opening Day was going to be so different anyway, coming as it did after the pandemic-generated truncated 60-game 2020 season played with no fans in the stands.

(Cardboard cutout photos of fans don’t count.)

Stadium crowds are going to be much smaller than capacity in most cases — although the Texas Rangers cavalierly opened their park Thursday at full capacity.

Masks and social distancing will still be required. Players continue to be tested at least every other day because they still need to be.

Last Tuesday, I sent this one-sentence note to Chris Zimmerman. She handles the important assignment of “laying out” the print edition of The Daily Item, which means mapping the space needed for both news content and ads. 

“With major league baseball back,” I wrote, “let’s please plan on 5 pages Tuesday through Saturday in Sports.”

I was delighted to send it. Baseball coming back in the spring makes things seem just a tiny bit more normal. We needed an extra page in Sports for it.

Then came Thursday’s news and, with it, a stark reminder that there are still no guarantees. Who knows how many disruptions to scheduled play will follow in the coming days and weeks?

It’s way too soon to be deciding this pandemic is over, yet many people seem to be doing just that.

Even as the number of vaccine shots distributed increases and eligibility for them broaden, we are still having thousands of positive tests statewide each day. Hospitalizations have increased.

Parents can still wake up to learn their sons and daughters won’t be able to go to in-person school that day or the next because of COVID-19 positive tests.

Many churches still had to limit congregation sizes for Easter services. I had to make a reservation for this morning’s 8 a.m. Mass weeks in advance.

Spring high school musicals are still largely being done virtually or not at all. Graduations and proms are being planned with various COVID-19 restrictions included.

If that’s all going to end, we’ve got to continue to do the right thing by keeping the masks and other mitigation methods in place.

The stubborn among us who refuse to play ball are only making the wait longer.

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