Something memorable will occur
During the final day of last year’s September series in Philadelphia, Jeff Francoeur sat in the dugout and talked about how he was looking forward to being back in that same spot to open this season.
At the time, he specifically mentioned being here on the afternoon of April 6. But that was before the Phillies won a World Series and prompted ESPN to choose tonight’s game as the one that will kick off Major League Baseball’s season.
This marks the second straight year that the Braves will participate in the first game played on United States soil. Last year in Washington, the Nationals were opening a new stadium and George Bush was present to throw the first pitch, which drew an ovation only trumped by the one elicited after Ryan Zimmerman drilled the evening’s final pitch over the left-centerfield wall.
After tonight, this long marathon will include 161 more regular season games and
there’s sure to be some pitching matchups that will create some
midseason energy. But until you get to October, it’s hard to match the
adrenaline you feel leading into an Opening Night (Day) game.
Something will happen tonight that you’ll remember for many years to come.
I seriously can’t remember the second game that was played during any of the past four seasons. But Ihave vivid memories of each of the Opening Day contests that were played during this span. In 2005, the Marlins ruined John Smoltz’s return to the rotation and in 2006, Tim Hudson teamed with Derek Lowe to allow the Braves and Dodgers to stage an 11-10 offensive slugfest that was decided by Ryan Langerhans’ eighth-inning solo homer.
In 2007, Edgar Renteria hit a late-inning opposite-field homer that propelled the Braves to victory over the Phillies and then last year, Zimmerman gave Nationals fans reason to celebrate by christening the stadium with its first walk-off homer.
The Braves opened the 2007 season with a three-game sweep in Philadelphia and then, six months later, watched the Phillies celebrate the first of two consecutive division titles.
Obviously nothing will be detemined tonight, this week or even this month. But you can be assured that something memorable will happen tonight.
Speaking of memorable, I’m looking forward to July 17, when the Braves retire Greg Maddux’s number. It was an absolute pleasure to watch him on the mound and a true honor to get to know him. Analytical, hilarious, crude, competitive and humble are all appropriate descriptions.
To provide an example that his analytical skills functioned away from the mound, I’ll tell you about a day in 2003, when we were in Puerto Rico. Chipper Jones told me that Mark DeRosa had visited a store and bought a can of dip that he was sure must have been transported on The Mayflower.
After relaying DeRosa’s humorous line, Maddux simply looked at me and said, “It wouldn’t have been the Mayflower. I think the Pinta or Santa Maria were the boats that would have landed down here.”
It doesn’t matter whether the Pinta or Santa Maria actually arrived in Puerto Rico. The point is that Maddux was always thinking and while taking joy in his argumentitive skills, he always made you feel like he was that much smarter than you. But he always did so in a very humble manner.
Maddux had a great impact on a number of pitchers, including Derek Lowe, who will make his Braves debut tonight against Brett Myers and the Phillies.
This marks the fourth straight year the Braves have opened on the road and their only two Opening Day wins during this span came in games that were started by Lowe (2006 Dodgers) and Myers (2007 Phillies).
Will Jordan Schafer be the one who provides the lasting memory while making his Major League debut tonight? Or will it be Francoeur, who would love to take the opportunity to show a national television audience why this year will be so much different than last year.