Opening Day, Part II: Remembrances, plus some hijinks
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 04, 2017 10:19 AM
The grounds crew puts a tarp on the field at Guaranteed Rate Field during a rain delay before an MLB baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers on opening day Monday, April 3, 2017 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer
Sandy Koufax sitting in the sun at Dodger Stadium, Mike Piazza in the seats at Citi Field. An echo of Vin Scully, warm thoughts about Big Papi and a tribute to Yordano Ventura.
Opening Day, Part II, began Monday with baseball remembering its past.
Plus some hijinks: Tom Brady's missing Super Bowl jersey was swiped by Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski in front of a rollicking crowd at Fenway Park. Brady got even, in a hurry — he tracked down the big tight end in the outfield and tackled him.
"That was awesome seeing those guys out there," said Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi, who played the David Ortiz role by homering in Boston's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh.
A day after there were three games in the majors, including the World Series champion Chicago Cubs losing in the bottom of the ninth at St. Louis, everyone else was scheduled to play.
Washington star Bryce Harper hit his fifth opening day home run at just 24, Mets ace Noah Syndergaard dominated before a blister stopped him and Baltimore slugger Mark Trumbo, who led the majors in homers last year, connected in the 11th inning at Camden Yards to top Toronto.
But no action in Chicago. The first game at the newly named Guaranteed Rate Field wasn't guaranteed — and the White Sox and Tigers were washed out had to wait another day to start.
At Nationals Park, Dusty Baker couldn't wait to go. This was the 43rd opener for the 67-year-old as a player, coach or skipper.
"Actually, I set my alarm for 6:30 — and I was up at 3:30, 4 o'clock. ... Something woke me up," Baker said with a smile. "There's nothing like opening day."
It was worth it, too, as Washington rallied past Miami 4-2.
Marlins president of baseball operation Michael Hill wore a black lapel pin with "16," the number that belonged to popular ace Jose Fernandez, killed late last season in a boat crash.
"He's gone, and that's something that we all have to come to grips with and accept," Hill said. "But his memory will always be a bond for this team and for me as well."
At Target Field, Minnesota honored Ventura before hosting Kansas City — the young Royals ace was killed during the winter in a car crash. The Twins also remembered their own former pitching prospect, Yorman Landa, who died in an offseason auto accident.
The Twins then brought out longtime bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek to throw the ceremonial first pitch. He's the longest-tenured coach in team history from 1981-2012, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
As Stelmaszek got ready to throw from the mound, he was surprised when 18 former Twins players and coaches, including Kent Hrbek and Justin Morneau, joined him on the field. Also in the group was past Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who's away from his spot as Arizona's bench coach while having treatment for prostate cancer.
There was the traditional pregame parade in downtown Cincinnati, with former Reds star Sean Casey presiding, and the Oakland Athletics prepared to open at the recently dedicated Rickey Henderson Field.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, held their first opener minus Scully in the broadcast booth since 1950. But fans in LA still heard Scully's voice, as he narrated a video about opening day that shown on the board.
"There's nothing like the feeling of opening day," Texas manager Jeff Banister said before taking on Cleveland. "The anticipation, the butterflies, the unknown, just excitement, all of it."
"Then when you walk through the tunnel for the first time, you hear the crowd, and the buzz, and you walk out and see all the bunting and the grass has been mowed, and it's green, and you smell the dirt, all the food in the stands, and just hear the buzz, nothing like it. National anthems, flyovers, all that just to get a season started."
He added: "Baseball is the best at it."
Banister also recalled his first opening day ever. He was 7, and there was a parade down Main Street in La Marque, Texas, to the baseball fields before his first game with the Gulf Coast Engineers.
"I thought it was the coolest thing ever. We all gathered up, took pictures and we actually played a baseball game, and I got a snowcone at the end of it," he said.
Asked what flavor, Banister instantly could taste it: "Is there any other flavor beside rainbow?"
Opening days and rainbows, indeed.