The Thrills – and Chills –
of Strat-O-Matic’s Opening Day
By Glenn Guzzo
The loyalty that Strat-O-Matic earns was on display again Feb. 1, when nearly 200 of the game’s most ardent followers defied freezing rain and generally bone-chilling weather to be the first to get their new baseball cards and computer games.
In a world that changes rapidly through technological advancement, some traditions are just good to die. Strat-O-Matic’s Opening Day tradition is now 40 years old. And for the die-hards, neither published ratings previews, next-day shipping nor online forums revealing news about the new products can substitute for the experience of connecting with other gamers, meeting Strat-O-Matic creator Hal Richman, and not waiting an extra minute to get their hands on those new cards.
To the countless others who wished they could have been there, take heart in the devotion of others:
The nearly 200 present on Opening Day represented many more, as some gamers were there to retrieve cards and computer products for their entire leagues.
For instance, Joel Kaplan, a 30-year Strat player, traveled from
Husband and wife Steve and Kathy Pieracini drove 10 hours from
Brent Schultz, a 17-year gamer, flew from
Tough acts to follow, but the folks who traveled the farthest were not necessarily the most devoted.
Karen Sandok of the
Mike Rescigno feared that jury deliberations on a murder trial might interfere with this year’s pilgrimage to
Steve Heinz, Paul Graziani, James Warrenton and Joe Moyer – a four-man league intact for more than 22 years – kept the inconvenience of Opening Day to a minimum. They arrived in a limousine. And that made it so much easier to spread out the cards and get playing right away.
Richman encountered other husband-wife Strat-playing combinations. He reacquainted himself with such long-time gamers and Opening Day veterans as Kevin Thomas (a 35-year player from
Opening Day is always a special treat for Richman. The 71-year-old leader of Strat-O-Matic since its inception gets to live a bit of the thrills his creation has provided others. He can see the game company’s history walking through his doors.
The cherry on that treat this year arrived in the hands of 41-year gamer Larry Fryer from the
“Outstanding,” Richman declared.