Allegany Communications Sports

It will be with a heavy heart that Baltimore gathers for today’s Opening Day at Camden Yards given the tragedy of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, obviously for the loss of life and for all that the Port of Baltimore means not only to Baltimore, but to the entire country.

One of the busiest ports in the United States, the Port of Baltimore has halted vessel traffic indefinitely in the wake of the bridge’s collapse, which is expected to affect the flow of commerce in the U.S., as the Key Bridge is an essential transport linking Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.

The Port of Baltimore is the top handler in the country of imports and exports of cars and light trucks, according to the office of Maryland Governor Wes Moore and “one of the largest economic generators” in the state. It also ranked ninth among U.S. harbors for tonnage and dollar value of foreign cargo passing through.

The Port supports more than 15,000 direct jobs and nearly 140,000 indirect jobs connected to the port, generating nearly $3.3 billion in total personal income, so, clearly, this is hitting a lot of Baltimoreans directly and will for some time to come.

Enter the new baseball season and Baltimore’s grandest and most festive day of any year, Opening Day, which is nothing short of a holiday in Baltimore, as, rain or shine, people (a whole lot of people) will literally be dancing in the streets this morning and this afternoon; and, if the Orioles win, this evening. There is just no other day like it in Baltimore.

Now certainly, baseball cannot take the place of much-needed employment, nor heal the deep wounds of the Key Bridge tragedy, because that port and its workers have always been such an enormous part of the fabric of the city of Baltimore. In part, it defines the collective personality of Baltimoreans – strong, hard-working and tough.

Baltimore is as blue-collar as any city in America, and working the docks is as blue-collar and as Baltimore as blue-collar and Baltimore can be.

But Baltimore is also baseball and has been since the late 19th century (you can look it up), and Baltimore is the Orioles, and has been in one form or another since the late 19th century (you can look that up, too); and with the season the Orioles completed last year and with the remarkable offseason and winter that was officially completed on Wednesday with Major League Baseball owners unanimously approving the Orioles ownership of Baltimore billionaire David M. Rubenstein, who will give the Orioles the opportunity to retain their young players and compete financially on an annual basis, well … As the great Augustus McCrae might say, “By God, Woodrow, it’s going to be quite a party.”

Baseball has a way of arriving at just the perfect time. It was essential to President Franklin D. Roosevelt that baseball continue to be played during World War II, as he cited in his famous “Green Light” letter the “definite recreational asset” that baseball provides, giving people a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off the larger matters at hand.

Even in Baltimore in 1984 when the Colts shocked the city by leaving for Indianapolis in the middle of the night 40 years ago to this day, just five days later the Orioles opened defense of their 1983 world championship to an exuberant sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium.

And who will ever forget President George W. Bush throwing the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium in the wake of September 11th? I didn’t vote for him either time, yet when I see that moment even today, it gives me chills.

Bush was just the latest American president to insist that baseball go on, to help lift our spirits through our darkest and most adverse times.

And why not? As Walt Whitman has been said to have said, “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

Happy Opening Day, Baltimore.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT