April 2011

A great start to a new season

Ah, Opening Day. All’s well that ends well. Things got a little hectic out there today, but we came through and got it done, and that’s all that matters. Jered Weaver was great, and we made the plays we needed to get the W.

I’ve always loved playing in Kansas City. I didn’t realize I’ve played 155 games here, a full season, really. I have a lot of family that’s come up from Pine Bluff in Arkansas to see me here, since it’s only a six-hour drive. It’s always good to put on a nice show for everybody.
 
There’s nothing quite like Opening Day. Even though this was my 13th one, there’s still a little anxiety involved. I remember my first one, in 1999. You’re out there on the line, next to home plate, and standing there it kind of hits you. This is really happening. You’re in the big leagues getting to start on Opening Day.

It’s really all about the young guys, getting their first taste of it. Peter Bourjos, Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo, Michael Kohn, Hank Conger . . . this first one is something you’ll never forget. It was great to see Kohn and Walden come in and get big outs for us. Peter, we all know what he can do with his speed and his desire. The sky’s the limit for Peter. I love our outfield, with Vernon Wells and myself on the corners and Peter running balls down. 

Opening Day for the young guys is like the first day of the rest of their career, even though they’ve been here later in the season for some games. You’ve got the stands full, all the excitement. You know a plane’s going to fly overhead. In 10 years you’ll remember what it felt like standing on that line, all the anxiety you felt.

It’s good to have a nice blend of older guys and young guys, and that’s what we have here. Bobby Abreu, Vernon, myself, some of the pitchers, we can kind of guide and lead all these younger guys. I really like our team, the chemistry we have here. These guys want to get this thing going and show what we can do.

Getting that first game out of the way reminds me of playing football in high school, when I’d come to the line of scrimmage for the first time – the cadence, taking the snap, taking off on an option, getting drilled by a linebacker. Then, after that, it was on. That first hit took away all the butterflies and it was time to compete.

That’s how it is with this first game. You want ideally to get a hit that first at-bat, so you can settle in and just play. You don’t want to be fighting for that first hit one too long. As you get older, you know everything eventually takes care of itself. But when you’re a young guy, everything is heightened, all of your senses. You want to succeed so much.

Luke Hochevar was bringing it, pitching really well, when I got into a two-seamer and got it over the wall in center field to give us the lead. That felt good. I’m 35, still playing hard, running hard. My age doesn’t matter. It’s how you feel and what you do. I feel great. I’ve always wanted to be the guy who sets the tone, makes everything go. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way here, but that’s how it is.

We’ve got a goal, a mission. This was the first of 162. It’s on. Like I said before, I love our chances this year. I think we can do some great things, I really do. This was just the start. A win on Opening Day, that’s what you need. Now we have to just keep pushing on, finding ways and getting it done.

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