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My only visit to Busch Stadium this year may have been from the outside looking in, but hopefully I can make up for it in 2021.

It’s a Major League Baseball Opening Day that will be different than ever before, but it’s a time of the year that I am relieved is finally here, as I write this on the eve of my Opening Day (the Cardinals’ first game).

As I have written before, I am always counting down the days until the holiday (it’s one to me, at least), and this year, I could never have anticipated that it would come four months later than it was supposed to.

There were so many times this year that it looked doubtful that we would have a season at all, so my line of thinking is it’s better late than never, right?

I saw plenty of people say during all the negotiations between the MLB and the players’ union that they wouldn’t watch this season or that 60 games isn’t worth watching or even that whoever wins it all this year that it won’t really count.

I guess none of those things enter my mind when I think about Opening Day.

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be glued in as soon as they started playing, and I even spent time last Sunday watching a Cardinals intrasquad game that I streamed on the TV at my family’s house.

My feeling is always that if the Cardinals are playing and I’m not busy working or doing something else important, I will be watching. It could be a spring training game, an exhibition, an intrasquad or whatever, and I’m always there when I can be.

People say that baseball can’t heal the world right now, and that’s definitely a true statement. But there are some of us who it can somewhat heal personally – it can give us a sense of normalcy back, a piece of something that we love.

My sense of normalcy won’t come back 100 percent until our high school teams are back out on the field with official games but with the Cardinals returning, it feels like one big piece of my heart is back to being filled.

It’s a romantic notion I suppose, but I never apologize for being romantic about baseball. This past week, I also watched something I recorded a few months ago, the 30 for 30 special on ESPN called “Long Gone Summer.” It’s about the chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa back in 1998 to take over the single-season home run record.

I have always loved baseball, but it’s one of those times in my childhood that I can remember falling in love with it all over again. Even looking back now, the fact that there was a lot of controversy surrounding that particular record doesn’t dim my memories of that time, and it was the perfect thing to watch to get me excited all over again for this season to start.

I have seen plenty of people talk about how different this season is going to be, and it’s true – sports without fans feels really, really strange, and that’s an understatement. Sports are made FOR fans.

Personally I miss being in the middle of a huge crowd at Busch Stadium, meeting new friends that love the same thing I do and just taking in the sights and smells of the ballpark.

But those experiences will come back – hopefully to open the 2021 season at the latest. And for now, I will just enjoy being able to watch the game I love in whatever way I can.

Melissa Meador is the Sports Editor of the Monroe Journal. Contact her at melissa.meador@journalinc.com or follow her on Twitter: @MelissaMeador14.

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