Borland and Blass

Herald Sports Editor Zack Borland (right) is pictured with former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher and broadcaster Steve Blass after the March 19, 2019 MLB Spring Training game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.

When I walked through the front door of my apartment after getting home from work last night, my fiancee asked if I was okay, saying that I looked like I was down in the dumps as of recently.

Coming off a full week of vacation time spent with my family, getting back to the reality that the sports world for all intents and purposes had been sent to the locker room has forced me to adjust. And quite frankly, it hasn’t been easy.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty that I have to be grateful for. I recently got engaged to my girlfriend of more than three years, I still have the luxury of being employed full-time and my family is healthy and going strong.

With all that said, I, like I’m sure many of my fellow colleagues have felt over the past few weeks, have felt somewhat empty without live sports to follow and report on — from high school to the pros. 

Thursday was planned to be the most exciting day of the calendar year for me — Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. For those who know me, and even those who have only seen me cover events from time to time in my Atlanta Braves apparel, you can deduce that following the happenings of the major leagues is one of my biggest passions in life.

Baseball was and always will be my first love. Yes, some may laugh at that, but the game has been an integral part of my life ever since I had the far-fetched dream of becoming a big leaguer as a small child. 

From the first time I stepped into a major league ballpark with my dad at Cleveland’s then-Jacobs Field in the mid-90s to now, when I plan my off days around attending the annual three- to four-game series in Pittsburgh between the Pirates and the Braves with friends and family, getting to the ballpark (MLB or MiLB) at least 10 times a season is always the goal.

However, with the impact that COVID-19 has had on the world of sports, there were no live games to attend or watch on Thursday. Despite all 30 teams scheduled to take the field on Opening Day for the first time this millennium, there were no players to root for, no towering home runs to marvel at and no wins to celebrate. There was only the collective loss of America’s pastime.

Before the regular-season schedule was completely postponed, I watched as many Spring Training games as I could during late February and early March because I knew it wouldn’t last with all of the cancellations and governmental guidelines coming down outside the world of sports. 

Last year, I was lucky enough to make the trek down to Florida for a week with one of my close friends to take in Spring Training in person for the first time in my life. It was an experience that I’ll never forget and we hoped to repeat this year. However, with my friend planning to start a family with his wife, it just wasn’t in the cards this time around, despite the handful of somewhat playful jabs about how kids would foil any chance at going back.

On Opening Day, I didn’t just sit there and pout, of course. I did take advantage of MLB’s YouTube channel, which had historic full games from each team uploaded on their page, by watching Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series between the Pirates and the Braves — the game known for “The Slide.” (Sorry to open an old wound Pirates fans.)

A game that was played while I was only a few months old, it was one that I had never fully seen until Thursday night. Even being an Atlanta fan, watching Buccos starting pitcher Doug Drabek shut down the Braves lineup through the first eight innings, that included him escaping a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, gave me some of those moments to marvel at considering that I took the mound at times when I was on the diamond.

As history played out with Francisco Cabrera shocking the baseball world with a series-winning, two-run single for the Braves in the bottom of the ninth off Pirates reliever Stan Belinda that capped off the 3-2 comeback win, I did feel some satisfaction with a completed game played, albeit more than 27 years ago. I’m sure it won’t be the last game that I peruse MLB’s YouTube channel until live action returns to our TVs and streaming sources.

I guess what I’m trying to get at it is that if you are suffering from sports withdrawal, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This 28-year-old is right there with you.

The old proverb, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” is truly being put to the test right now for all of us sports fans. Whether you’re missing the ball or the puck, the bat, club or racket, life will return to normal, even if it’s days, weeks or months down the road.

And, I’m sure that we will all have a new appreciation for sports once the action resumes after this disruption is over.

 

Borland is the Sports Editor of The Herald and can be reached at sports@titusvilleherald.com.

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