MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Dusty no stranger to thrill of Opening Day

Dusty no stranger to thrill of Opening Day

ATLANTA -- Nationals manager Dusty Baker has been involved in 42 Opening Days during his Major League career and, on Monday, he reminisced about his first Opening Day in 1971 as a member of the Braves. It took place in Cincinnati.

Baker was supposed to start the season with Triple-A Richmond. It never happened. Baker was at a Marine Corps meeting when he was told to meet the Braves in Cincinnati to face the Reds.

Instead, the Braves sent outfielder Tommie Aaron, Hank's younger brother, and Darrell Evans down to make room for Baker. Baker was with the big league club for almost two months before he was finally sent down to Richmond.

Baker remembers the Opening Day vividly. What he remembers most had nothing to do with the game against the Reds. Before the game, he was with a friend watching "The Price is Right" in a hotel room.

"There was a tornado that was superimposed in the background of the new Price is Right," Baker remembered. "It was tearing up everything. I looked over across the river -- out the window -- and it was that same tornado. It came up toward the city and it disappeared. That was my first and only sighting of a tornado. I hope that is my last."

More than 50 years later, Baker was in his first Opening Day as manager of the Nationals -- his first since 2013, when he managed the Reds. He said he is fortunate to be the "maestro of a very good orchestra."

"These guys are ready to come and play," Baker said about the Nationals. "And if you are not ready, it's too late. … This is what you worked all winter for. That's what you worked all spring for. … It's the start of a long race. I don't know the outcome of [Opening Day], but that will never take away the thrill, the joy of playing the season."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats