It wasn’t exactly ideal weather for opening day, but for die hard baseball fans (among which I include myself) it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been snowing as long as they played the game. For much of the pre-game, Mother Nature dropped this annoying mist on the field. The baseball gods stepped in shortly before game time and dried the place out for awhile.
The game itself had its moments of excitement. Jimmy Rollins getting a hit in his first at-bat followed by a big home run in the 7th. Pedro Feliz with a diving grab in the fourth to rob Ron Belliard of a hit, and Ryan Howard, with the shift on, sending a line drive to left-center in the 4th.
Also exciting was when Chase Utley went from first to third on the play and Pat Burrell drove in the run.
Then there were the not so exciting moments: A tough 5th inning for Brett Myers, his last of the game, and Tom Gordon’s very disappointing ninth inning. Gordon gave up five runs in just a third of an inning.
Myers said afterwards that he felt great when he was in the bullpen, but never quite got that feeling when he took the mound. He was pretty angry with himself afterwards. Myers gets a pass in this one, but they really need him to come out strong in his next outing.
Gordon is a different story. I think there is real reason for concern with him. I’m really afraid that in a few weeks he’s going to say he’s been hurt. Maybe it’s because that’s what happened last year. Gordon said afterwards that he had trouble locating his fastball. With Brad Lidge just five days away from joining the team there didn’t appear to be any reason for concern, but now there does. The Phillies only have 11 pitchers on the roster, and only a couple that can pitch that late in the game.
My favorite part of opening day is the time leading up to the game. The three hours prior to the first pitch is filled with festivities, including our own broadcasts. We did a one-hour live SportsDay and in that show I interviewed manager Charlie Manuel and closer Brad Lidge. Charlie said that as good as last years lineup was, this one has the chance of being even better.
Lidge said he could hardly sleep last night, even though he’s not even eligible to play until April 5 when he comes off the disabled list.
I also interviewed Pat Gillick in our pre-game show. When asked what he thought the teams weakest link is this year he said the pitching — not a big shocker. He also said they’re still looking for more pitching, even with the season underway. One has to assume that means they’re looking for someone in exchange for Wes Helms. When asked if they’d prefer to go with 12 pitchers rather than the 11 they have now, he said they’ll likely go back and forth between 11 and 12.
During player introductions the crowd was clear about who they like, love and aren’t exactly fond of. Of course the usuals got a big applause, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, etc. The one that surprised me a little was Chris Coste, only because back-up catchers aren’t usually among the fans favorites, but fans have clearly developed a real fondness for Coste, who had to feel good about his reception.
Then there’s Adam Eaton. He was booed heartily. Eaton took it well, tipping his hat to the crowd, almost asking for more. Wes Helms heard some boos as well.
I stood in the dugout about a half an hour before game time talking to some of the coaches. Catching Instructor Mick Billmeyer came out while I was talking to pitching coach Rich Dubee, Mick proclaimed his love for opening day. I asked the others if they felt the same. Bullpen coach Ramon Henderson agreed with Mick, but hitting coach Milt Thompson and Dubee both agreed that they just want to get that first game in the books and move forward.
It feels like I was just at the ballpark yesterday, hanging on every pitch. I need to reel that in a bit. It’s opening day, not late September. There are 161 games left. I just hope that when it is late September this season, we have a reason to hang on every pitch again.