Bryant, Ross relish opposite ends of Opening Day

Bryant, Ross relish opposite ends of Opening Day

ANAHEIM -- Monday was Kris Bryant's first Opening Day with a Major League team, and it was David Ross' last.

Ross, 39, has announced he's retiring after this season, his 15th, which will give him more time with his family. Prior to the the 9-0 win, he was watching video that his wife sent him of his son's first hit in a youth baseball game in Tallahassee, Fla.

"I'm excited," Ross said of the season. "There's nothing better than Opening Day -- maybe the playoffs is the only other kind of atmosphere like this. Opening Day at home is my favorite but being here in this environmnent with this group of guys and what we've been able to build in the last year I've been here, and the camaraderie in this clubhouse and all the clowns, I'm excited about the journey we've got ahead of us. I'm anxious to get it started."

Ross said he woke up around 8 a.m., eager to get the day started.

Ross' solo shot

Bryant, 24, was up much earlier. The third baseman did not join the Cubs until mid-April last year, so Monday was his first big league opener.

"I woke up in the middle of the night, and I couldn't fall asleep," Bryant said. "I've been waiting for this all offseason and all spring, just to be able to play meaningful baseball again. I'm sure a lot of the guys here couldn't sleep that well, too excited to get out there. I'm really excited for it."

Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are documenting Ross' final season on Instagram. It will be an emotional season for the veteran, who will start Tuesday when Jon Lester starts.

"We're tired of talking about how good we are," Ross said of the Cubs. "We are good. We know we're good. We won 97 games last year. You still have to go out and prove it. We're excited about the challenge and we're looking forward to it."

Extra bases

• The Cubs took advantage of being in an American League ballpark to use Jorge Soler as the designated hitter. Soler hasn't made a smooth switch from right field to left.

"I want to grab as many at-bats for Soler as possible," manager Joe Maddon said.

Ben Zobrist batted third and Bryant was fifth, but Maddon said that could change. He's trying to provide Rizzo with protection as well as have Zobrist on base ahead of the first baseman.

• This has been a homecoming for Maddon, who spent several years with the Angels, including working with manager Mike Scioscia as his bench coach. Maddon, who lived near the stadium, gave Scioscia a big hug after introductions.

Matt Szczur knows his Villanova history. Before the NCAA men's basketball tournament started, Szczur pointed out that in 1985, the Villanova men's basketball team lost in the Big East tournament, then won the national championship. This year, Villanova also lost the Big East tournament, and before the NCAA tourney began, Szczur felt his Wildcats had a chance for the national honors.

They delivered Monday night, beating North Carolina with a buzzer beater, 77-74. The game, though, was being played as the Cubs were playing the Angels.

"I was hitting in the tunnel," Szczur said after Monday's game, "and somebody came up and said 'Nova is up 74-71 with 13 seconds left, and I felt confident they were going to pull it out. I was out on the side, and I heard a 'oh,' and 'ah' and I looked up and saw on the TV screens in the suites the dark jerseys [of Villanova], so I knew they won. Then they showed it on the scoreboard."

Szczur showed his school pride on Monday. He wore a 'Nova shirt to the game.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.