NEW YORK -- Opening Bell, Opening Night, Opening Day.
The sequence was initiated Thursday morning inside NASDAQ in the heart of Times Square, and it was a dreamlike 28th birthday present for Nick Mendillo. Wearing his navy Red Sox T-shirt with "YASTRZEMSKI" on the back, Mendillo was among the nine new MLB Fan Cave Dwellers who joined Major League Baseball chief marketing officer Jacqueline Parkes in ringing the Opening Bell.
"It's funny, I was making a joke to the other Dwellers about how they were showing the Bryce Harper MLB commercial, and his face is on the screen that goes all the way out onto Times Square, from the facade of the building," Mendillo said as they got star treatment amid the busy din. "And I said, 'That must be crazy to have your face in Times Square like six stories high, having your face facing these strangers who are seeing you as they walk by.' Lo and behold, not five minutes later, they take my picture and put it on that facade, and my face is out there against the people.
"Unbelievable experience. I'm not a big stocks guy. I don't know much about it. But I know it's a big deal, and today's my birthday, so this is incredible."
The 2013 regular season begins Sunday night with Rangers at Astros on ESPN, with the other Opening Day games on Monday and Tuesday. That will include the first occasion of both New York teams opening the season at the same time on the first day, with the Mets playing host to the Padres at Citi Field while the Yankees are hosting Mendillo's favorite team in the Bronx. It will be the first time since 2005 -- after they reversed "The Curse" -- that the Red Sox open the season at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm pretty excited for Opening Day, having the Red Sox come to New York for Opening Day," Mendillo said. "I mean, I feel like the rivalry isn't as strong as it was five years ago, but it's still Yankees-Red Sox. It's decades of history. To start off my Fan Cave experience, I couldn't think of a better team to face. I'm really hoping to make a bunch of people in New York aware."
This was the second year in a row that MLB rang in a season at NASDAQ with the Cave Dwellers, and it follows a World Baseball Classic bell-ringing with the 16 international Cave Dwellers at the New York Stock Exchange. It is an established tradition now for these institutions and a national pastime.
"We are so excited to get the 2013 season started, coming off an unbelievable record year in so many ways," Parkes said. "Opening up at NASDAQ with the new nine MLB Fan Cave Dwellers is just really a fitting way to begin the year -- ringing the bell of excitement for all baseball fans around the world.
"This is historic. Being a part of something that's quintessential New York, that's a part of our country in such an unbelievably important way, to ring the bell is really a privilege. I think the nine Cave Dwellers really recognize the experiences and opportunities they're going to have as a part of the MLB Fan Cave this year. This is just a great way to start it all out."
Joining Mendillo at his birthday bell-ringing were fellow Dwellers Daniel Farris (Angels), Marcus Hall (White Sox), Alex Justice (Indians), Travis Miller (Mets), Mina Park (Rangers), Aaron Roberts (Dodgers), April Whitzman (Blue Jays) and Ben Wietmarschen (Reds). They marveled as their likenesses filled Times Square.
NASDAQ vice president David Wicks -- now a virtual MLB spokesperson -- noted that another season arrives with lofty numbers in the financial markets. Smiles were abundant at this bell-ringing.
"The passion that these young people have, that they bring to the game," Wicks said, "they hopefully bring new fans to experience what it's like."