Opening Day is something you always look forward to, starting in Little League.
In Little League, they have the Jamboree Day, where all the teams get in their lines, they're all recognized and it's the start of the season. It's finally that day you can go out there and let it go. There are no more practices. It counts. It's fun. It's exciting. You get to see everybody else's teams. You get to see their uniforms.
My first Opening Day, I was on the Royals. I still remember my uniform like it was yesterday. It looked nothing like the Kansas City Royals. Blue letters with yellow trim. It was my first Opening Day, the first time I got to put on a uniform. I see my son. He's about to have his first Opening Day. I remember the feeling. I remember being 5 years old, 6 years old, having my first Opening Day. It was the most fun day. You spent 10 hours at the baseball field.
Now that I'm in the big leagues, that feeling has never left.
That's the coolest part about Opening Day. I still have the same feeling 30 years later as I did that first Opening Day -- and [I'm] fortunate enough to have an Opening Day 30 years later.
Every Opening Day, you're filled with a lot of emotions -- excitement, obviously, nerves of the unknown. That's especially true in the Major Leagues, when you have 162 games and everybody starts at 0-0. Everybody's win-loss record pitching is 0-0. Everyone's batting average is .000. Everybody starts fresh with a clean slate. It's unknown how the season is going to go, unknown health, unknown everything. You get those nerves, no matter how long you've played this game or how many Opening Days you've had. You get that fear of the unknown, which is also a really cool feeling.
My first big league Opening Day -- 2003 with the Twins -- stands out. In 2002, I'd started every game of the playoffs, but as a right fielder. But Corey Koskie had gotten hurt in Spring Training about five or six days prior to camp breaking, so I played third base. We didn't know how long or the extent that it was going to happen. The day before we broke, he got put on the disabled list. I was fortunate enough to actually start the game on my first Opening Day. They retroactively DL'd him, so I lasted as a starter for only a series or so.
But I remember that Opening Day. It was in Detroit at Comerica [Park]. I was on the field, taking grounders. The lineup was up, I knew I was coming. That's when our manager, Ron Gardenhire, came up to me and said, 'Take it in. This is what it's all about. This is what you've dreamed of -- starting in your first Opening Day.' Those words will always stick with me. It is. Twenty years prior to that, you're dreaming of being in a Major League lineup -- especially on Opening Day. Here I was, that dream came true.
As for the games, I have never been a really good Opening Day guy. I don't believe I have any home runs on Opening Day. I don't think I've had too many good games. It's funny, because you see certain guys and that's their day. That's their day to shine. No matter what, they're guaranteed three hits or a home run or something. I remember Dmitri Young when he had three home runs on Opening Day. I was like, 'How do you do that?' I don't know if it's nerves or whatever the case is, I've never really been a good Opening Day player.
Hopefully, that'll change this year.
Michael Cuddyer is an outfielder for the Colorado Rockies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.