Opening Day holds a special place in the hearts and minds of baseball players and fans alike.
It not only marks the beginning of another season, but renews the hope and promise of successes that may lie ahead. Opening Day is a reminder of how great the game of baseball is and how transcendent its lessons are in our everyday lives.
As a player, you spend all offseason looking forward to the spring and summer, dedicating yourself to the craft, working to prepare for the season. When the first game of the season arrives, you finally have the opportunity to show the fans, and yourself, the fruits of your labor.
For me, the day holds a tremendous amount of excitement, as I feel that one of the best lessons baseball has taught me was the meaning and value of hard work, and I pride myself on the hard work I put into my preparation.
The Opening Day memory that will always stick with me followed one of the most difficult and trying times in my life.
Following an injury that put me on the disabled list for the entire 2011 season before it even began, my Opening Day hopes for the season were quickly vanquished. Instead of a promising first full year in the big leagues, what lay ahead was a year of grueling rehab and recovery.
I pushed past my own perceived limitations and constantly willed myself through the plateaus of recovery. As the season came and went, my sights were set on Opening Day 2012. It was my mission to get back to the place where I felt that I belonged, and the forthcoming Opening Day meant more than it ever could.
In taking the field for the first time in more than a year, I was overcome with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Not only was it finally my first Opening Day in the Major Leagues but it was my first real game back from a year of frustration, grit, dedication, and hard work.
It was the first step back on to the path to my dreams. The lessons and perspective that I gained throughout the whole experience has helped me get to where I am today. That experience of getting back on the field revived in me a sense of hope for the future, and it precisely embodies everything that is great about Opening Day.
Jason Castro is a catcher for the Astros.