Baseball is back! Is there any phrase in sports that is quite so exciting?
As much as that is a matter of opinion, there is something about Opening Day of Major League Baseball that is unique among all the major sports. It's timing.
It opens in the spring. So when baseball begins, so does so much other good stuff that we've been waiting months for.
The grass starts growing.
Flowers are ready to bloom, buds awaken on the trees.
The sun rises higher and higher in the sky, the days become broader.
The birds sing louder and longer.
Especially, it seems, the blue jays.
That's because this season, the Toronto Blue Jays are one of the most exciting teams in the game. And they're eager to prove that even after the excitement of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Canadian baseball fans haven't seen anything yet (even if, sadly, Canadian fans won't be able to see them in person for a while yet...)
What makes this team one to watch? Let's dig in.
The first thing that you notice about these Toronto Blue Jays compared with the teams that thrilled fans five years ago? They're really young.
Instead of veteran sluggers like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion, these Jays are driven by a trio of stars aged 25 and under: Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The supporting cast is pretty young, too: Rowdy Tellez, Teoscar Hernández, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. are all under 30. This means that the Jays are set up to succeed not only now, but for the foreseeable future as well.
At the same time, these players also have some experience to draw upon. Last season, they even unexpectedly tasted the playoffs! It should mean that now, in 2021, they are perfectly balanced between enthusiasm and experience.
Strong new additions
At the same time, this is not just a young team. This winter, the Jays added a bunch of new players. The most important ones are centre fielder George Springer and second baseman Marcus Semien.
Of these two, Springer is the most famous. This superstar slugger won the World Series MVP award in 2017 with the Houston Astros and has averaged over 30 home runs a season four straight years. He's seriously good and brings lots of knowledge and ability to the team.
Semien has also had big success in his career—he was third in American League MVP voting in 2019 as a member of the Oakland Athletics. True, he struggled a little in last year's odd pandemic season. But the Jays are betting that he'll be back to his normal self with a fresh start on a very talented team.
Maybe the only area where the Blue Jays are a little uncertain this Opening Day is on the mound. (That's where the pitchers play, don't you know!)
Korean ace Hyun Jin Ryu is the bomb. He had an excellent first season for the team last year and can match up against any pitcher in baseball. But beyond that, things are a little foggier.
One player who could impress is Nate Pearson. This young prospect has everything a great pitcher needs. But this is only his second year in the league and he needs more time to gain confidence. The rest of the Jays lineup is full of experienced pitchers, but they don't quite have the high-end skill of Ryu or Pearson.
It is possible that they could come together and perform well as a group. But it wouldn't be surprising if the team tries to get another top pitcher through the season—especially if the team starts to perform well!
Opening Day tilt
Of course, there will be a lot of time for the team to figure this out. The baseball season lasts 162 games, after all!
It all gets started today at 1:05 pm EST with a game against the New York Yankees. The Yankees are seen as one of the top three teams in the game, so the Jays will be tested early. But isn't that how you want it to be? Can't wait to hear the first crack of the bat!