When I was a kid, I was one of those dorky kids that liked going to school. I rarely got sick so I had the perfect attendance record for like two straight years. I actually hated missing school - I liked the structure, it was where my friends were, and I did well in my studies. But there was one day I did not mind missing at all. It was when my dad told me, "you're skipping school Monday. We're going to Opening Day."
I cannot recall exactly which year it was, probably in the early 90s, but my first Opening Day had me hooked for life. The first great thing about it was my dad and I were playing hooky on Monday afternoon to go watch baseball. Once we got to the stadium, it got even better. The pomp! The circumstance! The pageantry of it all! The Royals weren't making the playoffs in those days, so this was the only time I got to see decorative bunting around the stadium, players lining up along the foul line as lineups were announced, and a full stadium!
I continued going to Opening Days in high school with my buddy Voss. Back then it was still cheap enough for two 16-year olds to attend the first game of the year. I went away for college, but when I came back for law school, I was still at Opening Day, there to cheer on Runelvys Hernandez as he mowed down the White Sox as the Royals began a miraculous 9-0 start that would carry them to their first winning season in nine seasons in 2003.
The next year I moved away from Kansas City, so I had to miss Opening Day as my buddies back home witnessed Mendy Lopez's extra-inning walk-off winner in 2004. When I moved back to Kansas City, it was just in time to see Scott Elarton start Opening Day against the Tigers, almost giving us a quality start in 2006 in a 3-1 loss. Would you believe that was enough to give us hope back then?
By then, Opening Day was an annual tradition for me and my buddies. We saw the exciting debut of Gil Meche in 2007 and the corpulent cromulence of Sidney Ponson in 2009. We saw Jeremy Guthrie grind out a win in 2014, and we saw Alex Rios dismantle the Sox last year. Skipping out on work, getting together for a few cold ones and a shrimp boil, and watching Royals baseball has become one of the days I look forward to the most.
Opening the season with Sunday Night Baseball is fun and a spotlight well-deserved for the Royals. But baseball is a game that was meant to be played on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. The Royals technically go into this game with one win in the books already, but for me, this is the true Opening Day.
What are your best memories of Opening Day?