Play ball!

Happy Opening Day. Glorious day, wonderful, magical, longed-for day, when baseball returns to the earth.

Well, Opening Day Part I, anyway. Three games are on tap today, with a fuller slate to follow tomorrow. I’ve grown used to the middle-of-the-night opener in a faraway land, backed up by a next-day smorgasbord. Not sure how I feel about this arrangement, but the important thing is: Baseball is back!

First up, we have the Cardinals at the Pirates. Recent events have made me grow to dislike the Cardinals almost as much as the Giants, so my rooting interest here is clear. Plus, who doesn’t like the plucky Pirates, who have found a way to win with picayune payrolls (and Andrew McCutchen)?

PNC Park, where the St. Louis Cardinals will open the 2016 MLB season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

PNC Park, where the St. Louis Cardinals will open the 2016 MLB season against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

St. Louis edged Pittsburgh for the NL Central crown by two games last season. Their Opening Day meeting features a marquee pitching matchup, with Cards right-hander Adam Wainwright taking on Bucs lefty Francisco Liriano. Wainwright pitched just 28 innings last year because of a torn left Achilles tendon, and the Cards, who lost Jason Heyward, John Lackey, and Steve Cishek in the offseason, have injury problems at shortstop and catcher. But take it from this Dodger girl: The Redbirds are pretty good at finding ways to win - the bastards.

Next, the Blue Jays take on the Rays in a game pitting a pair of promising young right-handers in Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and Tampa’s Chris Archer. Archer posted a 3.23 ERA and 252 strikeouts (with a 1.137 WHIP) last year, but he may be best remembered for his star-making, charisma-packed turn in the booth during ESPN’s AL wildcard broadcast. He’s a good kid, with awesome hair, great style, and a sincere commitment to helping his community, and I hope his spotlighted debut garners rave reviews.

The nightcap is when things get really interesting, as an Opening Day World Series rematch between the Mets and the Royals takes center stage. Kansas City won’t receive its rings until Game 2, but there will be plenty of residual buzz at Kauffman Stadium when the Royals begin defense of their first title since 1985. The pitchers that were on the mound in last year’s decisive and somewhat chippy Game 5 – the Mets’ Matt Harvey and the Royals’ Edinson Volquez – will be back on the hill tonight as New York, without a World Series championship since 1986, will watch the 2015 banner raised in KC.

These are just the plotlines we know of. Many more will develop, in these games and in the weeks and months to follow, and I, for one, can’t wait. I’m aware that there are those who find baseball boring. I also know some people think the moon landing was a hoax. Neither of these has any basis in my reality or effect on what I know to be true.

The NCAA tournament, which will wrap up on Monday night with North Carolina taking on Villanova, is the best sporting event on earth.

Opening Day is the best day.