There’s a Chick-Fil-A that’s being built right down the road from my house. 0.9 miles to be exact — I checked on Google Maps. That’s walking distance folks, and I plan to log some miles starting on April 27 when that amazing fast food restaurant opens its doors for the first time.

I remember seeing the construction start over the winter and wondering what was to come in this space. Then, one glorious afternoon after dropping my wife off at the airport, I saw it. A banner with that beautiful red and white chicken logo and the words “Coming Soon” printed above it. I couldn’t have been more excited.

I drive past this construction site/future frequent dinner spot twice a day on my way to and from work. Every day I glance over to check on the progress and every day I get more pumped. “The drive thru is paved and there are bushes being planted out front,” I’ll text my wife excitedly.

Image Credit: JeepersMedia

It’s been fun to see its progress and it’s given me something to look forward to in the future. That Chick-Fil-A is going to see a lot of me this summer and in my mind, I can already picture the dinners my wife and I will have there after late days at work or stopping there when we have friends in town. It’s been a project that, even from a distance, I’ve watched eagerly and looked forward to seeing it become complete.

The best comparison that I can make to the emotions that I’ve felt watching my local Chick-Fil-A go from cinder blocks to my new favorite meal spot, is the feeling I get annually today, on Opening Day.

The Orioles season ended abruptly when they were bounced from the playoffs in a one-game Wild Card loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The date was October 4, 2016, and it feels like so long ago that I can barely even remember that the game went 11 innings or that Buck Showalter never used to Zach Britton.

Well, kind of.

But just like that baseball was over. That part of your life that was such a constant for six months is removed and suddenly you’re left with a vacancy that truly nothing can fulfill. Sure, I like hockey and yeah, it’s nice to catch up on some shows on Netflix, but ultimately nothing fills the void that baseball leaves behind when the season is over.

There were so many questions after the season ended for the Orioles. When the offseason began, it was overwhelming and I felt like it would never get cleared up. What would happen to Matt Wieters? The once top prospect who was crowned savior of the Orioles as they looked to end a decade in a half of losing baseball, was on the free agent market. Would he return to Baltimore and be back behind the dish in 2017? Or would the Orioles let him go and look elsewhere for a replacement?

Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters - Baltimore Orioles
Image Credit: Keith Allison

What about Mark Trumbo? In Nelson Cruz-esque fashion, Trumbo inked a one-year deal to mash with the Birds. And mash he did, leading MLB in homers with 47 last season. Would the O’s pony up the cash to keep him on their roster for the next couple seasons or would he, like Cruz, sign long-term somewhere else?

How would the Orioles address their fading outfield defense? Gold Glover Adam Jones hasn’t had much support to his left and right and the O’s felt that pain a good deal in 2016. What would Dan Duquette do about it this year and how much of a priority is fixing that problem?

As each of these questions were answered and the construction of the 2017 Orioles took shape, my excitement for baseball continued to spike. As I watched Welington Castillo sign a one-year deal with the Orioles, it was comparable to the feeling of seeing that “Coming Soon” sign down the road. Then Mark Trumbo inked his three-year, 37.5 million deal and it felt even more like baseball was nearer. I could picture how it would look in my mind and the emotions I’d feel following my favorite team for six months of summer. As time progressed, more questions were answered until finally a 25 man roster was announced.

When baseball returns triumphantly, as it has today, it’s kind of like reuniting with an old friend. And I don’t mean someone you’ve been pals with for a couple years — I’m talking a lifelong friendship, one of those people that has been with you through thick and thin, they know your secrets. As the years have gone on, perhaps you’ve faded from each other a bit, maybe you haven’t even talked in a little while, but you’re so close that you’re able to pick up right where you left off when you’re back together.

Soon enough, we’ll all be wondering how you were even able to function without watching baseball at 7 PM every night. Gary Thorne’s voice will be as welcomed as any other family member in our household and our text message conversations will turn into nothing but reaction to what’s going on at Camden Yards.

I watched Field Of Dreams last night, it’s not only my favorite baseball movie, but probably my favorite overall film of all time. Any diehard fan of this game can relate to passion the characters have for it and the connection a father and son have to the game. I watch it every year before Opening Day and frequently share my favorite quote from Terence Mann:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

Like so many of you, I’m glad construction is over and that baseball has opened its doors to us once again. This day gives us all hope, fans of all 30 teams share the same goal and for just a few short hours we are just as close to achieving it.

Happy Opening Day! I’m so glad that baseball has returned again.