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Ahead of Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, three Jays were sprawled out on a couch watching the Madrid derby in the Champions League.

Jose Reyes was sitting in a corner wearing a blue tuque the size of a top hat, an 'S' emblazoned T-shirt and looking like Super Smurf.

Reyes was heckling the soccer viewers, who were trying to pretend they couldn't hear him four feet away. You can tell who's off to a fast start.

Over in the other corner, the relievers' card game had been resumed from last year. Everyone else was bent over, scrolling through their phones or tablets.

Daniel Norris was hanging around because he doesn't know the starter is supposed to hide on game day. Or maybe, as with every other hallowed and ultimately pointless baseball tradition, he doesn't care.

Only Russell Martin appeared to be doing any work, going over game video.

Game 8 of 162 – the real beginning of the dog days.

Baseball doesn't build to a steady climax. Instead, it's a sine wave. It begins climbing the day pitchers and catchers report. It uses the storylines of spring training to create some phony drama. It peaks, hitting North America with a rolling series of Opening Days. There's something about that first day – it's not the beginning of spring, but the promise of summer. If there's baseball, there's hope.

The Jays played three openers this year – in New York, Baltimore and finally at home on Monday.

In the grand tradition, Opening Day is the highlight of Toronto's baseball calendar. Because, let's face it, there is no other grand tradition. It's a guaranteed sellout. Everybody's still hopeful. Or, at least, no one's given up yet.

It's usually miserable outside, so watching a game inside the concrete pillbox that is the Rogers Centre when the roof is closed doesn't seem like so much of a bummer. It's the only day of the year all the windows in the outfield hotel are full, so we can pretend paying for it wasn't the stupidest idea in the history of property development.

The crowd is loud and engaged from beginning to end. That's almost impossible at a baseball game. The sport was specifically designed to be ignored for huge, advertisement-shaped stretches. If the big telecoms and TV networks have a time machine, it's already been used to go back and invent baseball.

Ahead of the playoffs, this one day is the exception that proves that rule.

There's still some fights in Toronto during the opener, usually in the 500s. Sadly, the usual drunken fisticuffs did not enliven Monday's torpid loss. Maybe it's the new security measures. Maybe it's a general return to civility, signalled by changes in local government. Or maybe they're spiking the drinks with Quaaludes.

Whatever the cause, I'm against it. If going to a baseball game in Toronto isn't a little dangerous, everyone may want to do it.

Opening Day ends on a crescendo. People are cheering every ninth-inning pitch. The team wins or loses. Nobody really cares. The point of Opening Day is its Opening Dayness.

And then the wave crashes.

I have covered some desultory baseball. Because I'm from Toronto.

I did a Jays' series in Houston a couple of years ago – the Bataan Death March of late-season road trips.

The heat was so withering, even the ex-cons had decamped downtown. The arena is air-conditioned. Most of the people in the stands weren't bothering to face the field.

I asked one of the press-row regulars how his baseball season was going. "I re-evaluate my life on a daily basis," he said.

The Jays got absolutely laced by the worst team in the game. If there was any sports justice, Toronto would have had its civic charter revoked. And that was a more optimistic and portentous occasion than any post-Home Opener in Jays' history.

Game 2 at home is the night everybody goes back to sleep until the Stanley Cup is over and it's honest-to-God hot outside, rather than I-saw-a-single-goof-jogging-down-Yonge-Street-in-shorts hot.

Nobody's happier about this than the team.

"Opening Days are nice, but they're a hassle, too," manager John Gibbons said. "Now those are all behind us and we can go out there without any distractions."

By "distractions," Gibbons presumably means 'fans.' Twenty minutes before first pitch, the Rogers Centre was about as full as a decently sized movie theatre.

The thing they couldn't have known when they built this place – it's a little depressing when it's two-thirds full. When there are 17,264 or so people here – as there were on Tuesday – it's the No Exit of baseball arenas. Hell is no other people.

The mood didn't change when Norris's fifth pitch was hit out of the park by Tampa Bay's Steven Souza. It remained somnambulant, but more grudgingly so.

It ebbed and flowed. And ultimately ebbed – a 3-2 Toronto loss.

They're 4-4 thus far, which means, what, exactly?

"Not very much," Gibbons said.

When will we know when something means something?

"I don't know if I have a date."

Just help me out.

"You kinda get a sense, a few weeks in, at where you're at."

A few weeks. We're solid on that, right?

"A few weeks in, I think you got a little better idea."

Physicists generally perceive time as a fourth dimension. Baseball people perceive it as a limitless resource. That's why they don't care if the room is empty early on.

For most of three months, baseball happens in Toronto without anyone really paying attention. The figurative Home Opener lands on Canada Day.

The trick for the Jays is still being worth watching when it rolls around.