I’ve been looking forward to this since the Twins went down in a two game puff of smoke to the Astros in last year’s expanded playoffs.
I remember when I was a sophomore in college, going to school in Columbia, Missouri. I had just flown back into the Kansas City airport, after spending the week in Montana over spring break, to stay the night at my roommates parent’s house before taking the two hour drive back to campus and resuming class the next day.
Little did we know that the next sunrise was opening day.
In the state of Missouri, if you’re not familiar with the drive from Kansas City to St. Louis, the Mizzou campus in the city of Columbia is basically the mid-way point between the two cities.
It’s also a road that leads directly over the area in Kansas City where the Royals and Chiefs stadiums sit side by side, in easy view of every driver going either way on that stretch of highway.
As we took that track back to school we noticed giant crowds of people filing into the Kauffman Stadium where the Royals play.
We realized at that point that we had surprisingly stumbled upon opening day.
So what do two college sophomore sports fans do when they see that?
Eh, class can wait another day.
We pulled into the parking lot surrounding the ball park and bought some upper deck tickets for the Royals game at the window. Their opponent? Wouldn’t you know it…The Minnesota Twins.
The peanuts were great, the atmosphere was better.
I said to my roommate Adam, who grew up in Kansas City, “This looks damn-near like a sellout crowd, I thought the Royals are always terrible. Do they always draw crowds like this?”
He said, “No, but this is opening day man…everybody’s got a chance. It’s the only day of the year where anybody can say their team is in first place.”
It was such a great quote. I’m sure he had heard it somewhere before, but it has always stuck with me.
Opening day might be one of the best days of the year. That particular day Minnesota managed an 8-6 victory that helped set the tone for their season.
A few weeks later, for my 20th birthday, Adam and I went back to Kauffman field. This time is was a Friday night game, Red Sox vs Royals.
Pedro Martinez was on the hill.
Johnny Damon, Rickey Henderson, Manny Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra were all in the line-up that night for the Red Sox. It was perfect.
This time we had good seats behind the plate, and added draft beers to the peanuts on our game night menu.
Rickey Henderson either singled or walked at one point in the game. After doing so, he was leading off first, and at one point the pitcher threw over a couple times in a row to keep him honest.
This guy sitting a row directly in front of us, literally an arms length away, yelled out, “C’mon, don’t worry about the runner, get the guy at the plate!”
Adam stood up and yelled “OH YOU GOTTA WORRY ABOUT RICKEY!!!” like it was a reflex. Yelled it right over his head onto the field.
Everyone in the area started laughing, me included. I looked over at Adam. He stayed in character, acting like he was dead serious, standing up and starring out onto the field for 5 to 10 seconds after his comment.
The guy in front of us just shook his head.
A classic. One of the best birthday presents he could’ve given me.
As for the current opening day business at hand…the Twins managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory and blow a 5-2 lead in the 9th against the Brewers to lose 6-5, with Buxton’s damage (as accurately predicted by yours truly in my preseason breakdown. He’s got MVP on his mind) not enough this afternoon.
Hopefully this year’s opening day won’t be the only time the Twins are in first place this season.
It’s a shame wire to wire is no longer a possibility.
Could’ve done without some of the mental errors on the hill in the 9th.
Thanks opening day….You did your job.
Now the honeymoon period is over Minnesota. Time to go win some games.