Memories are created on Opening Day
It’s just one of 162 stops on this long journey known as baseball’s regular season. But something will happen in the baseball world over the course of the next 48 hours that you will remember much better than you would if this same event occurred on any other day between now and Oct. 1.
By the time the regular season concludes, the events of Opening Day will serve as just a tiny portion of the equation that dictates who plays in October. But Opening Day is still one of the year’s most memorable events for the countless individuals who patiently wait through winter for its arrival.
Anybody have any recollection of the two-homer game Edgar Renteria produced for the Braves in a May 15, 2007 win over the Nationals? How about the two homers he hit six weeks earlier in an Opening Day win in Philadelphia?
Without baseball-reference.com, I never would have remembered those homers Renteria hit against the Nats. But I almost vividly remember his second homer on that Opening Day in Philadelphia being an opposite-field shot that landed just above the scoreboard in right-centerfield.
Likewise, I’ll always remember that Jordan Schafer’s Opening Day blast in 2009 landed over Philly’s centerfield wall and of course that monstrous shot Jason Heyward drilled with the first swing of his career last year.
It’s difficult to imagine anything proving any more memorable on Opening Day than Heyward’s shot into the Braves’ bullpen. But those of you who were present on April 3, 2000 might agree that Andres Galarraga made Turner Field shake just as much as Heyward did last year.
After missing the 1999 season while battling cancer, Galarraga ended a scoreless battle with a seventh-inning shot that proved decisive for the Braves in a 2-0 win over the Rockies.
Here is a video clip of Galarraga’s homer. Check out the excitement shown by Ozzie Guillen, who was in the stands that day to see his good friend’s return.
We’ll have to wait to see if Freddie Freeman’s Opening Day proves to be as memorable as the ones Schafer and Heyward experienced the past two years.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Freeman’s arrival and at the age of 21, he’s carrying a lot on those much broader shoulders he brought to Spring Training. But I don’t think there is much reason to worry about the young first baseman. He was seemingly born to hit and avoid those long slumps that can make the season feel so frustrating.
Last night a fan tweeted, “where do u see the Braves finishing up at the end of the season?” I’m guessing he didn’t want me to reply, “with a three-game series against the Phillies in Atlanta Sept. 26-28.”
But simply writing that sentence creates a little bit of excitement. Even with all that they’ve endured this past month on the health front (Chase Utley, Brad Lidge…), the Phillies will be in the hunt for a pennant race. Cole Hamels can be either an asset or a liability.
But the Phillies know what they’re going to get from their other three top starters — Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee.
Likewise, I think the Braves know they can rely on Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Derek Lowe. Yes, I threw Lowe in this category. There’s just something about the confidence he has shown dating back to the perfect run he had through September last year.
The wild card in the Atlanta rotation is Jair Jurrjens, who has the talent and intelligence to be considered an ace or number two starter. But Jurrjens has given some reason to worry about his durability. Now he must simply prove there isn’t any reason to worry.
Like every Major League club, the Braves have a couple potential holes in their bullpen. But at the same time Spring Training showed they have plenty of depth (Jairo Asencio, Juan Abreu and Cory Gearrin) to fill those holes at some point.
I’m guessing Craig Kimbrel will end up handling the closing duties by himself at some point this year. But for now, it appears the Braves have something special with Kimbrel and Jonny Venters serving as reliable anchors for the pen. It should also be noted that Peter Moylan has grown more comfortable with his changeup and thus has a weapon to use against left-handed hitters.
With a rejuvenated Nate McLouth sitting in the two hole and a healthy Chipper Jones looking youthful again in the third spot, the Braves seem to have the makings of a formidable lineup. Martin Prado, who might be the club’s most valuable player, will once again sit at the top to serve as a catalyst.
GM Frank Wren will likely add a right-handed bat to his bench at some point this season. But the way things currently stand, I will buy into the optimism surrounding the Braves and say that this indeed will be the year they dethrone the Phillies and bring the National League East crown back to Atlanta.
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