Mike Hobson clearly remembers his first Major League Baseball game but not because of the action on the field.
It was Opening Day 1984 in Houston, the Astros versus the Montreal Expos. Hobson was only 5 years old, but the memories are still close enough to touch.
"It was something the family did together, us kids walking up from the parking lot with arms hooked at the elbows like a human chain," said Hobson, of Colorado Springs. "Once we reached the Astrodome, there was the smell of the popcorn, the sounds of the crowd and, when the game started, the crack of the bat and the cheers."
That day, Hobson's dad counseled him on family ballpark traditions.
"He showed me the proper way to eat a hot dog and told me the toppings you could and could not use. He was very adamant that ketchup doesn't go on a hot dog. It's good for hamburgers but never on a hot dog. He showed me how to hold it and eat it so the toppings wouldn't go all over the place," Hobson said. "I vividly remember sitting in that seat in the outfield."
Since then, the assistant general manager and director of public relations for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox has attended hundreds of baseball games, some more exciting than others. Nothing compares with the resonance of Opening Day, though.
"There's something special about that first day, when everything is new and exciting. For me, it's an important part of what I think being a family means," he said.
Around the nation Monday, most Major League Baseball teams will play the first of 162 regular season games. The day typically represents the first and last time all season that all clubs stand on equal footing with a 0-0 record, and it claims a special place in the hearts of fans.
"Opening Day has that special uniqueness that's not there even just a day later," Hobson said. "It's the start of the season and the start of spring. On Opening Day, everybody's in first place. No matter what your team did last year, there's optimism and everybody's excited about the possibilities."
The Sky Sox begin the season on the road this week and officially will celebrate the season opener at a home game April 11.
"We're a very family-oriented type of event, more so than other sports. There's something about being able to get the family together when winter's just starting to go away, when your lawn's just starting to green up and you're starting to plan for the summertime," Hobson said. "Get out and experience a slice of Americana, spend time together and build memories."
A season or two down the line, Hobson plans to share the Opening Day experience with his daughter, who will turn 2 this year.
"Hopefully, before too long I will be showing her how to eat a hot dog and passing that very important knowledge down to the next generation," he said.
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364