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Sarah's Take: Opening Day
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04/01/2002 7:40 pm ET 
Sarah's Take: Opening Day
By Sarah Morris / Dodgers.Com

"I can't forget when Eric Karros hit a grand slam on Opening Day of 2000." (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)

Everyone, who is involved in or loves baseball, anticipates Opening Day.

Baseball has become a year round business. Most players spend their off-season working on intensive conditioning programs and sharpening their playing skills. When players report to either Florida or Arizona for spring training, they are in good physical shape. If a player is not, he probably will lose his job.
Spring training gives young players an opportunity to win a position on the team. Though most veterans are assured a job, they work on fundamentals to improve their play. The goal of the veterans is to get through spring training injury-free and get ready, both physically and mentally, for the regular season.

Though most fans perceive that players view each game similarly, this is not true. Before Opening Day most players have so much adrenaline flowing that they cannot sleep. Opening Day symbolizes what they have devoted most of their lives for, to be the best baseball player that they can.

As spring does, Opening Day symbolizes a rebirth. Every team has a fresh record. Every player has the opportunity to have a super year or a forgettable season. Regardless of what the media or baseball scouts say, on Opening Day every team has an equal opportunity to win the World Series.

On Opening Day most fans believe their favorite team can win it all. Fans go in droves to respective stadiums, and most of them swear the stadiums have never looked so beautiful. Many relish hearing the crack of the bat for the first time since October.

Most teams have special ceremonies to be held before the season opener is played. I remember one year the Dodgers had white doves released before the opening game started. The doves made a beautiful scene against the Dodger blue sky. Most years a fancy American bomber flies over Dodger Stadium making a memorable patriotic scene.

All teams have a celebrity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Usually the President of the United States will throw out one somewhere. I remember in 1988 the Dodgers selected four members of their 1981 World Championship team for this honor. In 1995 after the long strike, the Dodgers had a peanut vendor to do the honor because they wanted to show the fans that the strike hurt other people employed by the Dodger organization. Vin Scully, everyone's favorite Dodger, received the honor when he began his fiftieth year broadcasting Dodger games in 1999.

Opening Day is the only time most teams experience any fanfare during the season. The stadiums are decked out with special banners and other eye-catching decorations.

As a Dodger fan, I have been lucky enough to witness some remarkable performances on Opening Day.

The most memorable performance on any Opening Day for me was when Fernando Valenzuela shutout the Houston Astros in 1981. The Dodgers wanted Jerry Reuss to be their Opening Day pitcher, but he sustained a leg injury making him unable to start. Tommy Lasorda chose a 20-year-old rookie left-handed pitcher, Valenzuela, to pitch the most glamorous game of the year. Most people worried whether Valenzuela could handle the pressure. They didn't have to -- the rookie mowed down the Astros without a care for the fanfare surrounding the game. This performance started Fernandomania. By the end of the year, Valenzuela had a World Championship ring, Rookie of the Year, and a Cy Young award.

Another memorable moment was in 1988. Steve Sax, not known as a power hitter, hit the first pitch that the Dodgers saw for a home run. Though the Dodgers lost the game, Sax's homer signaled the Dodgers would do something amazing. Against all odds, they won a World Championship while winning all of our hearts.
In 1999 Kevin Brown faced the Arizona Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson on Opening Day. Though it was billed as a pitching duel, neither had their best stuff. After falling behind by a large margin, the Dodgers won the game thanks to a pair of homers by Raul Mondesi. No one will forget that soon.

I can't forget when Eric Karros hit a grand slam on Opening Day of 2000. Karros, a notoriously slow starter, had one other grand slam in his career. Though the Dodgers didn't go to the playoffs that year, they improved their record greatly over 1999.

Last year when Chan Ho Park shutout the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day, it was remarkable. Turning the boos into cheers, Gary Sheffield homered for the game's only run. This is something that I won't forget.

I am sure that the Dodgers will do something special on this year's Opening Day when they face their arch rivals, the San Francisco Giants. This year's Opening Day is special for me because it is the first opener that I have been hired by Major League Baseball to write about the Dodgers.

I am looking forward to another exciting season watching the boys in blue.

Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger Place. She lives in Anderson, Texas.
 





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