When you begin your career, your goal is to make the Opening Day roster. For some it happens quickly, yet for others it may take many years. As a pitcher, only one can make the Opening Day start. That, among many other reasons, is what makes the Opening Day start so special.
My first Opening Day start was incredible. Not only did I get to start the season off, but it was in front of the hometown crowd. I was filled with excitement when I first found out. To be able to pitch in front of a packed house of screaming fans is above all comparison.
In my mind, this great honor came with great responsibility. The pressure of starting the season off on the right foot is put squarely on your shoulders. Of course, you have your teammates, but you have to throw the ball for the game to move on. I was not scared, but rather excited about the chance to be able to set the tone.
So many things run through your head. Did you leave all the tickets for your family? What time does the game actually start? Are we going to have one of those big flags on the field? Is it possible that I might get stuck in it? Every player is on edge wondering what the season will bring, hoping for the best, but unsure of what will truly happen.
As your pregame routine begins, the game starts to feel like the game you have been playing since you were a little kid. And once you get on the mound, with the roar of the crowd on your side, time stands still for a moment -- until you release that first pitch.
I have been blessed to be able to make my third Opening Day start, and they just keep getting better. Last year, we defied the odds of those around us by executing what we thought we could do and making the playoffs. Now the expectations are high, but the expectations are high for every team. Again comes the opportunity, again comes the pressure, again comes the time to set the tone.
The boys are ready, and though we start on the road, we know that all of Tribe Nation are with us on every pitch, play and swing. I don't want to look behind at what has been done, and I don't want to look forward at what may or may not happen next year. We have been given this year, and we want to take hold of that.
Our journey to the World Series -- one that ends with dancing and tears of joy -- starts on Opening Day. Though starting Opening Day doesn't make me any more nasty or make me any more special than any of the other starters, it allows me to set the bar and, hopefully, set it very high.
Last year was special, and we have a feeling that this year will be even more special, maybe even special-er!