Opening Day is upon us. Even though baseball is all about trying to see who will be the team to raise the Commissioner's Trophy at the end of October, personally I believe that Opening Day is pretty amazing in itself. To me, it's the best part of the season because for one day out of the season, everybody is on equal footing (unless you're the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, or Padres this season, then you have 1-to-3 games up on everyone else. What a buzzkill.). It's exciting because optimism is everywhere. Granted, we've got all sorts of projection models and predictions that seem to make you think that the entire season is going to exactly to plan. That never happens. If it did, the Washington Nationals would be heading into this season as the defending NL East champions instead of the Braves. But that didn't happen, because sometimes you just can't predict baseball, and Opening Day is the best day of the year to momentarily discard those predictions and just enjoy the moment. Everybody (for the most part) is 0-0, and everybody's in first. Or for you cynics out there, March 31st just means that it's time for another 6 months of pain and suffering, and cursing whoever put this vex of a team on you. Either way, it's Opening Day. You can look at it however you want to, and that's the beauty of it.
One example of this (and what has become my favorite Opening Day memory) was back in 2010, when the Braves were beginning their final season under Bobby Cox. The Braves were actually pegged to be a pretty good team back then; Maybe not a consensus favorite to make their return to the top of the hill that is the NL East, but a lot of experts had them penciled as a nice pick to win the Wild Card. Eventually they did so, but only after clinching it on the last day of the season in typically heart-attack inducing fashion. The season ultimately ended with the Braves going down to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants, so they ended up finishing where most experts predicted them to. But the events that occurred on April 5th, 2010 would have made you think that it would have been a much different story, because that's what a win will do for a fan's confidence on Opening Day: You win that first game, and you win it in amazing fashion, then you think that the sky's the only limit.
Speaking of the sky, it was a perfect Spring day back then, and the beautiful baseball weather at Turner Field set the stage for what ended up being an equally beautiful win for the Braves over the Chicago Cubs. It started off a bit rocky, as the Cubs teed off on Derek Lowe in the first, scoring 3 runs. The aforementioned optimism of Opening Day may have been curtailed by Lowe's stumble out of the gates, but the bottom half of that inning renewed the optimism in a huge manner.
The Braves got those 3 runs back in immediate fashion, taking advantage of an especially rustled Carlos Zambrano on that day. With 2 on and 1 out, the stage was set for the young kid from nearby McDonough, Georgia to make his debut at the big show in grand fashion. There was a lot of excitement surrounding Jason Heyward's debut, and what better way for the rookie to start things off by coming up to the plate at home with a chance to put his team ahead. I remember watching the game hoping that he could get a gapper and simply give the Braves a lead to continue the strong inning. What we got was something that, if you were there, you'll be able to tell any and everyone who asks about it exactly what you did when it happened. You'd be able to tell them exactly how loud it got in that stadium, and you'll be able to tell them the amount of pandemonium that was going on at the Ted when this happened: What we got was a moment.
I can't tell you what was going through Heyward's head when he laid the smackdown on that ball and put it into orbit with it eventually landing in the Braves' bullpen. I can't tell you what was going through Zambrano's head as he watched a ball that he threw to a rookie nearly land in Decatur. I can, however, tell you what I was thinking when that happened on Opening Day. "THE BRAVES ARE GOING ALL THE WAY. ALL THE WAY. 162-0 BRUH. HEYWARD FOR MVP, ROOKIE OF THE YEAR, MAYOR, GOVERNOR, ALL THAT. ALL THE WAY. ALLLLLLLLL. THEEEEEE. WAAAYYYYY." That's not an exact recollection, and I'm sure that there was probably more "colorful" vocabulary running through my brain at that point. Needless to say, I was ecstatic, and from that point on as the Braves continued to beat on Zambrano and the rest of the Cubs' pitching staff on their way to a 16-4 victory, I had the feeling that maybe the wildcard and Divisional Series wouldn't be the ceiling for the team. Maybe the Championship Series wouldn't be the ceiling either. Maybe this team could go all the way. Looking back, it's pretty ridiculous to believe that a season is destined for the glory of raising the Commissioner's Trophy after just one game, but that's what Opening Day is all about: If it goes your way, then you think that there's no stopping your team from continuing their run in order to achieve greatness. Even if it is indeed ridiculous, it's still a beautiful feeling to have for your favorite baseball team, and it's exactly the feeling that I had once the 27th out was recorded on that day.
Of course, there are probably plenty of you who have a different memory from past Braves' Opening Days that you hold near and dear to your heart. That's why this post is here: It's Opening Day, so it's time to share those memories. It's time to feel the optimism. It's time to get excited.