So, I love Opening Day for baseball season. It reminds me of being a kid, just getting into baseball for the first time. I’m taking you back to the year 2000, when the Cubs were opening up the Major League Baseball season with the New York Mets in Japan. They had a two-game series with the Mets prior to flying back to the United States to take on the St. Louis Cardinals, and it’s the first Opening Day game I can remember vividly watching as a young Cubs fan.
The Cubs got the win in the first game but would split the tw0-game series before getting swept in St. Louis, on their way to a 65-97 season. But that Opening Day win was something special for me. The Cubs got on the board against Mike Hampton early, as Eric Young walked, stole second base, and was singled home by center fielder Damon Buford. Mark Grace hit a homer, Jon Lieber pitched seven great innings, and the Cubs won the game 5-3.
From there, I can remember Opening Day fairly well for each year. The Cubs opened against the Expos in 2001, with Jose Vidro hitting a two-run homer off Lieber in the first inning. In 2002, it was a walk-off loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs were 4-0 on Opening Day in the Dusty Baker era, averaging 13.5 runs per game.
In 2007, I actually attended my first Opening Day at Wrigley Field. The Cubs were playing the Houston Astros, and newly minted free agent Alfonso Soriano was making his Cubs debut in center field. It was freezing cold sitting in the bleachers that day, as I can actually remember seeing snow flurries landing in my beer. The Cubs and starter Carlos Zambrano lost the game, 5-1.
The next year was the Kosuke Fukudome game, with the Japanese right fielder going 3-for-3 with a single, a double, and a game-tying three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Eric Gagne of the Brewers. The Cubs, of course, would go on to lose that game when Bob Howry gave up a run in the 10th inning.
I was back in the bleachers in 2009, when Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. It was cold, yet again, and this time accompanied by a torrential downpour. I also remember this game as the one I went to with my boss for my new job in Chicago. That guy was such a dick.
To be honest, 2010-2013 is a massive blur. The Cubs were bad and I think I have blocked a lot of that out of my mind. Oh yeah, the Heyward homer in Atlanta was 2010 wasn’t it? Anyway, in 2014 I stayed up late to watch the Cubs lose 1-0 in 10 innings in Pittsburgh, not that Emilio Bonifacio didn’t do his best by hitting 4-for-5 that game. And then last season, of course, was Opening Night with the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Cubs lost 3-0, Jon Lester looked shaky after a shortened spring training, and people peed in plastic cups.
And now in 2016, the Cubs will play the Angels in a late start with Jake Arrieta on the mound. It’s the first we’ll see of him in an official game since losing Game One of the NLCS last year, if you can believe it’s been that long. If you’re keeping track at home, the Cubs haven’t lost a regular season game started by Arrieta since Cole Hamels no-hit them last July.
So, that’s the history of Opening Day as told through my memories. I hope you enjoyed it, or that it at least gave you some level of excitement heading into the festivities today.