The big day is here, and it’s always something special. I can’t even describe what the adrenaline rush is like on Opening Day. It’s my 12th Opening Day, and the butterflies will be there as always. Once the game starts, though, it’s back to doing what we do. It’s a thrill to take the field and get another season going.
We’re meeting my old team, the Twins, to get it started for the second time in my three years with the Angels. Everyone knows how it all started for me in Minnesota, so this is special.
The truth is, I’m looking forward to this one a lot more than the opener at the Metrodome in 2008. That series went four games and was hard on me emotionally, mentally and even physically, being on artificial turf.
Opening Day at the Metrdome, my first game in an Angels uniform, that was really rough on me. I was kind of in a daze, running around trying to see so many people who meant so much to me for such a big part of my life. I knew everybody there, from the janitors to the vendors.
My nerves were shot before the game even started. I didn’t play very well and we lost, but it was just one game. As the series went on, I started feeling better and playing better. I hit a home run, got a few hits and we came out of it all right. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t glad it was over.
This time it’s all different. The Twins are coming to our house, to my place. It’ll be good to see all those guys again, from Ron Gardenhire and Joe Mauer through the ranks. That’s always been a great organization, and I was proud to be a Twin from June 3, 1993 to the end of 2007.
It’s a new era with the Twins. They showed that when they stepped up and did what it took to keep Joe. They showed they didn’t want to be a small-market team anymore. They’ve got their new ballpark, and a whole new era. It’s great to see.
Guys like myself and Johan Santana, we were there at the wrong time. They couldn’t keep us, but I know it means the world to those great fans that they signed Joe, their hometown guy, to that eight-year deal. I was really happy to see that.
It’s going to be exciting for those guys to come to our turf. It’ll be cool to see Gardy, Jerry White, all those guys who taught me so much.
I’ll also get to see some guys I helped raise as players. Denard Span, who’s taking my old spot, is my protégé. He came to stay with me in Texas, in my house. I talked to him about everything, from finances to family to the game.
Gardy was one of the first guys I met when I signed with the Twins out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. I was 17 when I signed. We met in Spring Training in 1994. He was the third-base coach then, and he was so cool to me. I’ll always remember that.
Gardenhire reminds me of Mike Scioscia in some ways. Both those guys are really into the game, always studying the game. I don’t know if Gardy has changed any – I seriously doubt it — but when I was there, he was a players’ manager. He was always joking with the players, staying close to us. Guys loved playing for him.
I’ve been lucky to spend almost my whole career playing for two of the best managers in the game. We’re going to do everything we can to take Mike back to the World Series this season. It’s a long process, but everything starts with that first step, that first game. Let’s get it going.