Action-packed slate set for first full day

Season under way with 11-game slate

Opening Day is what you've been waiting for, no matter who you are or where you live.

Anthony Boyer, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., said: "Opening Day means tradition to me. Wherever I've been in life, whatever's been going on, the one constant has always been baseball."

Germain Lussier, of Monroe, N.Y., feels the same way: "Opening Day means seven straight months of never being bored. There's always baseball, so there's always something to do."

Josh Illes, of Birmingham, Ala., has a slightly lighter take: "Opening Day is the only day of the year that I don't feel bad when I totally ignore my children."

The time has come. Opening Day is finally here.

The season officially began Sunday night in Philadelphia, where the Braves doused the Phillies, 4-1.

But it truly begins in earnest today, with 11 mesmerizing Opening Day games on the Monday schedule as the 162-game quest begins.

It is a time unlike any other on the calendar, and for many people it is one of the best days on the calendar. It means everything.

Opening Day means Junior Griffey is back in the Mariners' lineup, where it all began once upon a time. Randy Johnson is a Giants pitcher now, needing just five wins to reach 300 in his career. Gary Sheffield is a Met now, needing just one jack to join the 500 Home Run Club. It is a time to start watching for milestones.

It means another Next Year has begun for the Cubs, in their timeless quest to win their first World Series since 1908. It means a chance for Cleveland to go about winning its first Series since '48. It means the beginning of a Giants season that could end with the first title since they moved to San Francisco in '58. And who knows, it could mean ending the season in a Bay Bridge Series with Oakland just as it did 20 years ago.

It means possibilities like that. It means making outlandish predictions.

It means Cincinnati can stage its annual Findlay Market Parade, leading right into the game that is always the first to be played on Monday's Opening Day. But this time it is "Snowpening Day" there -- forecast calls for white stuff, not just the baseball and home plate, bases and baselines. Rain is forecast to roll in Sunday, with temperatures sinking into the upper 30s by sunrise Monday, and rain should mix with, and then change into, snow during the day, possibly affecting the game against Johan Santana and the Mets.

It will be a lot different than what Santana was pitching in this past month down in Port St. Lucie, Fla. But that's what Opening Day means, too. Clubs are out of Florida and Arizona, except for the three left behind as residents: the Marlins, Rays and D-backs.

Bri O'Reilly, of Somerville, Mass., said: "Opening Day means summer is officially here ... even if the weather doesn't feel like cooperating."

Richi Mead, of Washington, expanded on that thought: "Opening Day smell; fresh-cut grass. Summer's first BBQ. Baseball movie classics with Crash Davis, Wild Thing, Shoeless Joe. Return."

Nicole Crudo, of Chicago, recalls different Opening Day weather: "Gambling on Chicago weather just to hear the first 'Sox Fans On Your Feet' of the season. A fresh start. Tradition, pride and hope."

Opening Day means one final season of Metrodome baseball gets under way. After this season, the Twins will move to outdoor Target Field.

This begins a season that brings two new ballparks to New York. The Mets officially open Citi Field on April 13 against the Padres, and three days later the Yankees do the same against the Indians at new Yankee Stadium. The reviews and the photo galleries from the exhibitions are being posted in white-hot frequency all over the Internet, analyzing every possible nook and cranny. But until those two dates, nothing is official.

Opening Day means CC Sabathia is on the mound and Mark Teixeira is at first for the Yankees down in Baltimore, the implementation of an expensive offseason strategy by the Bronx Bombers. Will it be the start of something new for the Orioles, whose fans, by the way, have been waiting months now to sing a particular paean to Teixeira after he decided against signing with his native club?

It's the first official game as an Oakland A's outfielder for Matt Holliday. It's the coming-out party for 20-year-old Rangers rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is jumping right over the Triple-A level. And for all the new faces in new places, Opening Day is also about stability. Cliff Lee starts Cleveland's opener Monday at Texas, and one wonders if he can possibly approach his 2008 dominance of 22-3.

Opening Day is Roy Halladay starting at home for Toronto against Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Every fantasy owner has an expectation that Doc Halladay will be his usual self; but will this be the Verlander who guided Detroit to that 2006 World Series and threw a no-hitter, or the one who struggled so badly in an 11-17 season last year?

It is more than a time to wonder. That was offseason stuff. It is a time to see.

Julia Fitzgerald, of Sudbury, Mass., can't wait: "Opening Day -- Anything is possible, everyone is equal, all the dreams are still alive. It is the best day of the season! Play Ball!"

Russell Wight, of Columbus, Ohio, is thinking of tradition: "It means the start of another year at the park with my family, a tradition passed down from my parents to me, now to my kids."

Tyler Peters, of Springfield, Mo., echoed others' sentiments: "Opening Day is the start of the best marathon in sports."

It is Opening Day, and after all this waiting, it is here.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.