Harper's Homers, tributes mark Opening Day
Josh Hamilton jumped into a cab, headed to Great American Ball Park and got all nostalgic.
The Los Angeles Angels newcomer saw Cincinnati fans packed downtown and remembered making his big league debut in the same spot a while ago.
“People are lined up in the streets, there's the parade,” he said. “It's just an awesome feeling. It never gets old — Opening Day — especially when you're where you started.”
All across the majors, baseball was in full swing Monday.
Bryce Harper put on quite a show in Washington. The 20-year-old star hit home runs his first two times up and earned a few “M-V-P!” chants during a 2-0 win over Miami.
At Target Field in Minnesota, players and fans bundled up. It was 35 degrees with 17 mph winds as the Twins took on ace Justin Verlander and the AL champion Detroit Tigers, who won 4-2.
“It's whoever whines about it the least, I think, who'll have the best chance of winning today,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said prior to the game.
The slugger's remedy for the cold?
“Put hot sauce all over and throw some long sleeves on and some long johns and go out there and run around and enjoy it,” he joked.
The hot chocolate line was 12 to 15 people deep at the ballpark while the beer vendors were generally talking among themselves.
“It's Opening Day. You can't not come,” said fan Ripley Peterson, dressed in six layers for the chill. “I love baseball; I love the Twins. Opening Day is a special thing. Unless it's like a blizzard, I'm going to be here.”
The 2013 season officially opened Sunday night when the Houston Astros beat Texas.
Most every other team was in action Monday. From old rivalries on the coasts — Red Sox-Yankees in New York, Giants-Dodgers in Los Angeles — there was plenty to celebrate with a dozen games.
“The three big holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas and Opening Day,” LA co-owner Stan Kasten said, watching the stands at Dodger Stadium fill up before the game against World Series champion San Francisco.
A few minutes later, a stadium camera swung to Vin Scully's booth, where he's starting his 64th season, and the revered broadcaster pronounced: “It's time for Dodger baseball.”
Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was standing on the mound before the game when manager Don Mattingly came out and signaled for a reliever. In came Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax wearing his No. 32 vintage jersey, and the ol' left-hander threw out the first ball to former Dodgers ace Orel Hershiser.
The Dodgers' current lefty ace, Clayton Kershaw, had a memorable opening performance, launching his first career home run to break a scoreless tie in the eighth inning before finishing off a four-hitter in a 4-0 win.
He became the first pitcher to throw a shutout and hit a home run in an opener since Bob Lemon for Cleveland in 1953, according to STATS.
“What an awesome feeling,” said Kershaw, who charged around the bases accompanied by a prolonged roar from the sellout crowd of 53,000. “I probably wasn't feeling my feet hitting the ground.”
There was a lot more to remember and honor, too.
Players, managers, coaches, umpires and everyone else in uniform wore patches in tribute to those killed last December in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
At Yankee Stadium, the names of the 20 children and six educators who died scrolled on the video board in center field during a moment of silence. The honor guard included members of Newtown police and firefighters.