But after spending parts of two seasons in the Major Leagues without experiencing an Opening Day, I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to be on a Major League team for the first day of the season.
Well, that question finally got answered. And obviously that day was special. So, without question, my favorite Opening Day would have to be the first one, just because it was my first time being there. That big day came in 2005 in Detroit, when I played for the Royals -- the team I played for my first eight seasons in the Major Leagues before leaving Kansas City after the '10 season.
I'd been a September callup and played in 12 games in 2003. I didn't break camp with the Royals the following spring, so I missed the '04 opener, but I did join the team for good at the end of April that year and managed to play in 122 games -- just not the opener.
So I looked forward to that opener at Detroit's Comerica Park on April 4, 2005.
Comerica was still a relatively new park at the time, and you couldn't help but notice how dressed up the place was to begin the season. The afternoon game was played under sunny skies, with the temperature in the 60s and a slight breeze blowing to center field. Everything felt perfect, so I was pumped to play.
I remember feeling that nervous energy you sometimes get before games. I don't get that as much these days, but I remember that day having that feeling of, "Man, this is what I've worked for."
Jeremy Bonderman started for the Tigers, and I was hitting leadoff against the hard-throwing right-hander. When you're hitting leadoff, you always want to see as many pitches as you can. I managed to see seven pitches in that first at-bat of the season before I flied out to left field on a 3-2 pitch.
Next time up, I drove an 0-1 pitch pretty well, but I flied out to deep left. By the time I came to the plate with one out in the fifth, the Tigers were on top, 5-0, and Bonderman really had a nice one going. This time, I singled through the right side to drive home John Buck with our first run. I added a single to center field off Bonderman in the seventh, but the rout was on.
The Tigers continued to pour it on offensively. They hit four home runs off us that day. Dmitri Young accounted for three of those, driving in five in the process -- not a bad way to start to the season, huh? At the end of the day, we dropped an 11-2 decision, which proved to be the first one of a 106-loss season.
Bonderman got the win after allowing just one run on six hits in seven innings.
While we lost that one, Opening Day for the 2005 season will always be special since it was my first. And Opening Day will always be special for me. It signals a new year. Every team has high hopes. I can't wait for this year's Opening Day with the Rays. We feel like we have a shot to get to the World Series, so it's going to be a special one.