D-backs share favorite Opening Day memories with season on hold
On March 31, 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks played a game for the first time. It was an Opening Day, but more than that, it was the start of Arizona partaking in a classic baseball tradition.
Thursday was set to be the team’s 23rd Opening Day in franchise history.
The 2020 Opening Day hasn’t happened as MLB’s season is postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. But the fanfare and excitement around Opening Day was replicated some as D-backs past and present joined Arizona Sports on Thursday to talk about America’s pastime.
Read or listen here:
Randy Johnson — Hall of Fame pitcher
On Opening Day in 1994, the first game at Cleveland’s new Jacobs Field: “The original day we were supposed to play, we got snowed out. And President Clinton was going to be throwing out the first pitch, I believe it was. A day or two later … We came back. Ironically enough, the only person that’s ever thrown a no-hitter on Opening Day I believe was Bob Feller, so go figure that I would have one for [7.1 innings] in the new ballpark, Jacobs Field, and Bob Feller I believe was on hand at the game.”
Luis Gonzalez — Former D-backs outfielder
On Opening Day with D-backs in 2001: “We were down 2-1, I hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning. And of course, that ended up being a great year for our team. I love Bob Brenly, and to help propel our team to get the first one of the year. And I think that was his first managerial win, so that was pretty exciting to have a hand in that.”
Torey Lovullo — Diamondbacks manager
First Opening Day with D-backs in 2017: “It was my first go-around as a big-league manager. … I just had lost my father a couple months before that, I was obviously thinking about him. I was thinking about all the people around me that had celebrated my journey to get to that point with the good and bad moments. Obviously having my family there and extended family, I think we had roughly 100 people that my wife had organized in the stands cheering for me and the Diamondbacks, it was a very special day.
Most special Opening Day: “It was after the Red Sox had won the world championship in 2013, the first moment of 2014, we got our rings and that’s what we play for,” Lovullo said, having previously been a bench coach in Boston. “It was an unbelievable atmosphere there. The owner and the general manager of the ballclub personally handed me my ring. That was a really special moment and something that we’ll never forget.”
His first Opening Day as a player: “Probably the feeling was equal or magnified because it was my first big league opening day. I remember the day being extremely cold, bitterly cold. Going out and checking the temperature to figure out what type of clothing I was going to wear, and thinking ‘Oh my god, there’s nothing I could possibly wear that’s going to keep me warm enough day.’ But it was a special time for me.”
Josh Collmenter — Former D-backs starting pitcher
On finding out he was starting Opening Day in 2015: “It was kind of funny, it was probably about as informal as it gets. It was during lunch just after workouts at Salt River for one of the spring training days, you’re in there having lunch before heading down to the stadium for whatever game. And Chip Hale, the manager at the time, was just sick and tired of people asking, so he just came in, he’s like, ‘Hey, by the way, you’re starting Opening Day. I’m tired of dealing with this.’
“Starting Opening Day was awesome, but the first one was incredible. Just because to finally make the roster out of spring training, just to have that feeling to see all the pageantry, I’ve watched it a bunch, but to actually be able to partake in everything that goes into it, being out there, being called out onto the foul line, the national anthem, flags on the field, everything like that.”
J.J. Putz — Former D-backs closer
“It had to be probably my first one ever. You always remember your first. It was in Seattle. But the first time you get introduced on Opening Day, I think you came running out of the right center field tunnel. And long, red carpet run, you’re in cleats, you’re like, ‘Geeze, please don’t fall.’
“But every single one of them’s special in their own right. The first one here in Arizona in 2011, I remember with [manager Kirk Gibson] and just talking to him all through spring, I was like, ‘Hey man, we’ve got something good here.’ And he kind of had that same feeling. And I don’t know what it was about it, because we weren’t really picked to do anything that year, but there was just something about that group of guys early on in spring, and I told Gibby on, just stretching out on the agility field, ‘Man, we’ve got something good here.’ And to come out in Colorado, win Opening Day and it kind of took off from there.”
Willie Bloomquist, former D-back
On first Opening Day with D-backs in 2011: “All spring training, [manager Kirk Gibson] had me playing pretty much every position except shortstop. I remember asking, ‘Gibby, do you need me take some stuff at short?’ (He said) ‘Nope, nope. (Starting shortstop) Stephen (Drew’s) got that position handled.’
“And then the day before opening day, Stephen goes down with an abdominal strain. And [Gibson] says, ‘Uh, Willie you’re going to be playing short tomorrow.’ And I’m like ‘Gibby, I haven’t taken a ground ball at short all spring. But let’s do this. Let’s go.'”