What is it that makes Opening Day so special? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is a sign of the end of winter. After having nothing colorful to look at for months it is amazing how great a green baseball field looks. Yesterday the first thing I did was go down as far as I could to take a look at the green grass. Inside the ballpark you have no idea how dreary it still looks outside. Another great thing about Opening Day is the optimism. For a day everyone is in first place. Even a team like the Indians who have had two straight seasons with 90+ losses can find some optimism on Opening Day. It is amazing to see the looks on people’s faces as they were waiting to get into the ballpark yesterday. For a day everyone is a kid again. That is part of what makes the day so special. I think that even the players have a sense of being a kid again. Before the game I was watching rookie Brent Morel throwing the ball up to himself and catching it while waiting for someone to play catch with. I used to do the same thing as a child, and I am sure that it was not the first time for Brent. Baseball is a beautiful game, and I am glad that it is back.
For about two weeks I was contemplating going to Cleveland to see the Sox play on Opening Day. The last week or so though I decided against it because the weather was supposed to be so bad. In fact on Thursday I some pictures coming out of Cleveland that showed a good amount of snow on the field. Along with those pictures though was the forecast that it would be sunny and 48 degrees for Opening Day. I decided to go, and found a good seat for a great price on StubHub. I guess someone really wanted to get rid of their ticket badly enough to almost give it away. I got to the park early to get some pictures from outside the stadium before it became too crowded. I made a complete tour outside of the park before stopping at Gate C to go in. This is the gate with the Feller statue, and it just seemed right to go in here.
Part of the draw of going to Cleveland for the gamewas the fact that they were honoring Bob Feller who passed away in December. As a kid I always knew who Bob was, but it was not until I lived in Iowa that I really appreciated him as a man as well as a player. He really led a magnificent life. Not only was he a Hall of Fame pitcher (a case could be made that he was the best right handed pitcher of all time.) He also served his country. He joined the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He missed four seasons of his baseball career while serving his country in World War II. “Rapid Robert” was beloved in Iowa. I would drive down to his museum in Van Meter, Iowa in the winter just to talk to the volunteers who ran the museum. Granted if you volunteer for something you must love it, but I gained a great appreciation for Bob during those talks.
Mark Buehrle made his ninth Opening Day start for the Sox yesterday. That is the most in Sox history, but also ties him for the most among active players. He is one of my favorite Sox players because he just seems to enjoy playing the game. This isn’t just a job to him. Once again he came out to warm up with his glove on his head. Not many players would mess around like that before a big start. He just seems to get it. For some reason I have seen Mark pitch more than any other pitcher. Part of that is how long he has played. Another part of that is some kind of luck that puts me in my seat on days that he pitches. I hope that I see him pitch a few more times before he hangs up the spikes.
For the first four innings the Sox were just awesome. Buehrle was dealing on the mound, and the offense was just on fire. They could not be denied. Adam Dunn hit his first home run for the Sox. Carlos Quentin added to the total with a home run of his own. They both really led the charge on the day Dunn had four RBI’s, and Quentin had five. I hope that these two can keep this going all season. Anytime your team scores 15 runs you have to be happy with them. On the other hand I also walked away from the game telling myself that they only won by five, and that they were playing the Indians who have lost 90 games the past two seasons.
Adam Dunn is a name that I have heard of for quite some time. When I was just getting back into baseball hardcore in 2002 he was a hot rookie. For the past couple of seasons White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams really tried to get him. He couldn’t trade for him, but he did sign him as a free agent. After months of waiting to see what he could do he gave us a show yesterday. During batting practice he was awesome to watch. I wish the Sox would let the fans in early this season to watch him hit. With a smooth swing he put a couple balls into the second deck at Progressive Field. This man will strike out a lot, but when he gets all of one it will be fun to watch. His home run in the third inning yesterday was a no doubter off the bat. While I am not saying that he will be a savior for the Sox, I will say that he will give the fans some thrills over the summer.
Last season I was in Detroit when Brandon Inge hit a ball out of the park that was clearly foul, but was called a home run by the umpires. They went back and reviewed the play, and called it a foul ball. Chris Sale then struck Inge out to end the inning. Yesterday I saw two home runs reviewed. The first was a two run shot by Carlos Quentin in the 3rd inning. The ball appeared to hit the railing above the yellow line live which would make it a home run. The Indian fans thought that it hit below the yellow line. It didn’t of course, and the umpires upheld their ruling of a home run. Later in the game they were still going on and on about how it should have been a double. I watched the replay of it when I got home, and saw that the ball hit off of a fans chest who was standing on the railing. That high it was clearly a home run. In the seventh Carlos Santana hit a smooth (see what I did there?) shot to almost the exact same place. Once again it was ruled a home run on the field, but had to be reviewed. It stood as well. I have not seen many reviews live or on TV, but two in one game has to be a rarity.
Cleveland is a town looking for anything to cling to in sports. With the score 6-0 after three innings a lot of fans were already leaving the stadium. Those that stayed were just merciless in berating every player on the field. That is except Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana. They love Choo. So much so that they chant his name every time he touches the ball. He could make a catch of a routine ball in the outfield, and the sound of “Choooooooo” rings through the park. They really need something to cheer about. They were pretty quiet though as Choo struck out in the 8th. I was glad because I was really tired of hearing the cheer.
The other player that they love is Carlos Santana. Being so close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame you would expect that I guess. Carlos is a very good prospect for the Tribe. He looked very good last season after being called up before an injury ended his season. He was 3-5 yesterday with a home run, three RBI’s, and two runs scored. The sky appears to be the limit for this kid. He will make a fine addition to the Yankees in a couple of years.
Some positives from the game yesterday:
- Adam Dunn – What a great first game with the Sox. He goes 2-4 with a home run and four RBI’s in his debut to make a lot of Sox fans feel very good about the season
- Carlos Quentin – In my opinion he is one factor that can really make a difference for this team. If he can find that 2008 form this team will be very tough to beat. He started the season by going 3-4 coming up just a triple shy of the cycle. He also drove in five runs on the day. Let’s hope he can keep it going.
- Let’s just save some time and say the entire starting offense for the Sox looked good. Putting up 14 runs is a great way to start the season. They added one late with some substitutions in for 15 on opening day.
- Mark Buehrle pitched five strong innings before running out of gas in the sixth. Maybe the lopsided score had something to do with it, or maybe he was just done.
- According to The Baseball Almanac this game tied the 1908 Opener for the most runs scored by a Sox club. with some of the slugging teams the Sox have had this is pretty cool.
With the score 14-0 after four innings I was very high on this team. It was after that point that some things happened that let some doubt creep in. Here are some negatives from the game:
- Alex Rios went 0-4 on opening day with 3 strikeouts. You can’t get too down on him for the same reason that you can’t get too high about any of the guys who had a great game. It is only one game. Just because it happened on the first game does not mean it will continue throughout the season.
- The White Sox relievers did not have a good game. They only pitched three innings among the four of them, but the gave up six runs on nine hits. Will Ohman did not endear himself to Sox fans with his opening day effort.
- Lastings Milledge – Maybe I was too high on him coming into the game. He just looked like he was in trouble in the outfield. He made one very bad play that was not ruled an error, but the ball did hit his mitt. He also made some easy plays look very hard.
- The Sox struck out 14 times on the day out of 27 outs. When they didn’t hit the ball hard they really didn’t hit the ball.
This cannot be good that I have already been to one game on April 1st. I went to a lot of games last season, and thought that there is no way that I could go to more. For some reason I think that I could possibly do it this season. I have also crossed another park off of the list. For some reason I have always thought that Cleveland had to be farther away. I have had tickets to games on Labor Day in Cleveland a couple of times, but have not made the game for one reason or another. The planned trips fell through, and this spur of the moment trip actually happened. The drive was not bad (under four hours) so maybe I will go back again in the near future. Progressive Field (I really want to call it ‘The Jake’ is a beautiful park. It was packed yesterday, but today the stands are very empty. Somehow I think that tickets will be cheap later on this season.
In the future I will have a couple posts with pictures from my day yesterday. I took so many that I think I will break them up into a couple of posts. I think that I will also have one for a section of the park they call Heritage Park. This is located in right-center field. I had thought that I had done some due diligence in planning this trip. I looked at some of the things that I wanted to see at the park before I went. I saw nothing about Heritage Park while I was researching the stadium. This is a great little area where they honor their past right in the stadium. I think that it would make a great interesting sports destinations post. I might also resurrect the Stadium Guides to make one for Progressive Field.
This season I am going to try something new. I found a great site called The Baseball Enthusiast over the winter. I love the way that he incorporates his box score into his posts. I keep score at every game so I thought that I would do the same thing with mine. It is technically stealing his idea, but it is such a good one that I had to. I like how it kind of sums up everything about the game. I knew that I was going to the game so I filled in some of the boxes ahead of time on the computer to see how it looked. I thought that it was great because my bad handwriting is negated. I go to so many games on a whim though that it won’t always be possible. One thing that drives me crazy keeping score is when one team bats around in an inning. It just creates too much chaos on the scoresheet. Of course I didn’t mind so much in the third inning when the White Sox did it. I just adjusted the scorecard, and carried everything over in the spaces for the 4th inning. If the Sox had done it again in the 4th I would have had a mess on my hands. I bought the scorecard at the park, but like most you buy there it was way too hard to write on. I don’t know why they don’t just leave it as regular paper inside. I was going to use my own sheets anyway, but wanted the scorecard for a souvenir. Here are my scorecards from Opening Day: