Delayed, but not done, Opening Day still a treat to look forward to this year

When Opening Day gets here, baseball will bring the feels

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"Opening Day" Perhaps the two best words in all of sports, next to "Game Seven" This week Major League Baseball was scheduled to have "Opening Day" throughout the league, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official start (like so much of our lives) remains uncertain. MLB is not foreign to having delays or disruptions to their season. In my lifetime, there have been multiple, not just in the aftermath of 9/11 either.

Does anyone recall 1981? That particular season was interrupted by a two month strike that ended just in time to award first half division titles while then playing a short second season to create the first three-tiered playoff format. This of course worked out fine for the Yankees and Dodgers, who ended up in the World Series, while the team with the best overall record that year, (The Cincinnati Reds) ended up completely out of the playoff picture.

In 1994, the final few months of the regular season, and ultimately World Series were canceled along with the start of the 95' season due to a labor dispute between the Owners & Players. In 95', the regular season was reduced to 144 games. Fast forward to 2020, and it's hard to imagine any games being played before Memorial Day. Some of the questions that MLB will encounter will be how far do they push games ? Will the World Series be played as families are sitting down for Thanksgiving Dinner?

My first "Opening Day" was at Old Comiskey Park in 1984, a loss to the Detroit Tigers with my Dad. How many of you have memories of skipping school in early April, to go with a Dad or Uncle ? The Tigers would go on to start that season with a record of 35-5, while easily capturing the World Series in the Fall. Throughout the years, it was "Opening Day" with family members, friends or work colleagues that made memories at the ballpark so special. The "New Comiskey" would open several years later in 1991, and the White Sox would lose again, to those same Detroit Tigers. All told, I've attended "Opening Day" as a media member (or fan) 17 times in my life. Every team has optimism and a "hope" on "Opening Day"



This year I couldn't wait to see "who" in the AL would challenge Mike Trout for MVP Honors. Could it possibly be his own teammate (fully healthy) Shohei Ohtani? I was planning over Astros HOF Weekend in August to seeing Vlad Guerrero Jr for the first time in person when they were slated to play, even purchasing seats down the third base line. Vlad having just turned 21 is one of the young ascending stars and "new faces" poised to dominate the game over the next decade. And of course, I was eager in seeing "how" Dusty Baker would navigate the stormy waters for the Astros amid trash cans and buzzers, and all of that mess.

I do know one thing, the game I love so much, cannot return soon enough. Baseball has played a vital role throughout time in "healing" the country, and providing entertainment, while also strengthening memories and family bonds. My Grandmother, Brother & Sister liked nothing more than going to baseball games with me. Occasionally, I'd drag my parents as well, like the time my Dad discarded all of his peanut shells into a guys cup of beer without knowing! Haha. I wouldn't trade those memories at the ballpark for anything. When MLB's season does return with "Opening Day" the worst will be behind us, and all of us can have optimism and hope return in our lives once again, just as the teams will for the 2020 seasonal pursuits.

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NASCAR: Quaker State 400 preview

Photo via: WikiCommons.

This week, the NASCAR cup series heads to Kentucky Motor Speedway for the Quaker State 400. Built in 2001, this track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with a dog-leg on the front stretch. The most dangerous part of the track has to be turn three as the corner is flat compared to the other three corners that are banked. This has been a major point of contingency for these drivers as most of the cautions end up being there. Look for turn three to be a hot spot come Sunday. Last year, both the Busch brothers finished 1-2 in one of the most exciting finishes of the season so there will be a lot of hype for this race to live up to.

Last week at Indy, as we all expected the race was a crazy one. Over the course of the race's 160 laps, we saw many horrific accidents including a scary pit road accident involving Corey Lajoe, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgier, Ryan Preece and others. The wreck started when everyone got stacked up entering the pits and the calamity was on from there. During the wreck Brennan Poole struck Rear Tire Changer Zach Price as he was trying to avoid the wrecking cars in front of him. After the incident fans and media alike all held their breath as they awaited news on his condition. But when the camera panned to him being loaded into the ambulance, there was a huge sigh of relief as he gave everyone a thumbs up signifying he was okay. Another scary moment was both Erik Jones and Alex Bowman's vicious crashes. Both cars had tire failures that sent their cars directly into the wall. Fortunately both drivers were okay but their days were over.

In the end, tire wear would end up claiming one more victim as it took out Denny Hamlin as well. With seven laps to go, the four-time winner this season was in prime position to get his fifth victory until his right front tire blew out, sending him hard into the turn 2 wall. This mishap handed the win to his main rival in the championship, Kevin Harvick, as he went on to claim his third Brickyard 400 victory and fourth win of the year. When it was all over, many questioned why there were so many tire failures and if new owner Roger Penske would make an effort to possibly widen the pit-road after the massive accident on Sunday.

Needless to say, there are a lot of questions on what will be different at Indy in 2021. When I talked to spotter Freddie Kraft on Tuesday, he gave a lot of good insights on both topics. When it came to the tire failures, he talked about how the increasing corner speeds at the racetrack has put a lot of pressure on these Goodyear tires which eventually led to them coming apart. As far as Pit-Road and what they can do to fix that, he talked about how it is difficult to make changes to a track that is so historical. Which makes sense, but he followed this up by saying that maybe it would be wise to give up a little history and move the wall over and make it wider. It will be interesting to see what NASCAR does in the coming months.

On Friday, Associated Press journalist Jenna Fryer revealed a bombshell announcement that 7-time champion and NASCAR's biggest name Jimmie Johnson, had tested positive for coronavirus. As everyone knows, the world is going through the worst pandemic it's ever faced in this lifetime. With the sport coming back and racing again, it was only a matter of time until one of the drivers came down with it. Unfortunately it had to be NASCAR's most recognizable driver. Thankfully, Jimmie made a full recovery and was cleared to return this weekend at Kentucky. This was a big scare for everyone in the NASCAR world, but I have to give a lot of credit to Johnson for being as forthright as he was about his diagnosis with everyone who he works with. It will be good to have Jimmie back on Sunday.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Kyle Busch. While this season has been a disappointment for the defending champion, Kentucky would be a great place for him to turn it around. Ever since the cup series has started going there, Kyle has always been in contention to win. In fact, he won the first cup series race that was run at this track back in 2011. In his nine starts there, Kyle has finished outside the top ten only once and even then he finished 12th, back in 2016. Last season it appeared that Kyle was on his way to a third victory at this track, but he came up one spot short to his brother Kurt in a fantastic last lap duel. After a late race restart this weekend though, I see Kyle redeeming himself and capturing his first victory of 2020. Look for Kyle to get back on track come Sunday.


All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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