White Sox fan extending opener tradition

White Sox fan extending opener tradition

White Sox fan extending opener tradition
CHICAGO -- If Matt Nommensen's far-ranging dream is someday fulfilled, he eventually will foster a baseball-related streak putting Joe DiMaggio's amazing 56-game hitting streak on the backburner.

"My goal is 65 in a row," Nommensen said. "I'm going as long as humanly possible."

To clear up one point immediately, Nommensen is not a baseball player. He dabbled a little bit growing up, but the 28-year-old currently earns a living working for the Village of Lansing in Chicago's South Suburbs.

His streak falls into the fan-based category. When the White Sox play host to the Rays Thursday afternoon, with a first pitch of 1:10 p.m. CT at U.S. Cellular Field, Nommensen will be attending his 19th consecutive home opener. It might not be the longest of all living White Sox followers, but it shows the passion from the South Siders' youthful part of their fan base.

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All good streaks seem to have a non-descript start. For Nommensen, this personal home-opening run began on April 9, 1993, and to be honest, he doesn't remember specific details about the contest.

"Bo Jackson hit a home run in that game," said Nommensen, referring to the famous pinch-hit, opposite-field shot from Jackson in his return from hip surgery, coming off of the Yankees' Neal Heaton. "But those first few [home openers] I attended, I'll be honest, I don't have a good recollection of the highlight moments."

Nommensen attended that first game courtesy of a childhood friend, Dan, who he hasn't seen in 15 years and only talks to occasionally online. On that afternoon, Nommensen went without his father, Ray.

But despite the White Sox losing, 11-6, before 42,775 at new Comiskey Park, Nommensen came home and told his dad a new home-opening streak was about to start for the both of them.

"We lost, but I remember raving about the game and telling my dad, 'We are going from now on,'" Nommensen said. "So, my dad has one less than me in the streak. Starting in 1994, we've gone ever since."

Even before Nommensen started making home openers a yearly ritual or grew up and became a White Sox season-ticket holder, there was no doubt where the city baseball allegiance fell in his family.

"You were a White Sox fan, absolutely," Nommensen said. "No other choice in this house."

Those choices have been slightly amended with Nommensen's girlfriend being a Cubs fan. But for a family with a cat named Buehrle, Nommensen jokes that he is able to drag her to more White Sox games than taking trips to Wrigley Field.

Some home Opening Day memories for Nommensen include Joe Crede's game-winning grand slam in the seventh inning off Minnesota reliever Pat Neshek in 2008 and Jim Thome's deciding blast off Kyle Farnsworth in 2009. Of course, nothing will top the first home game in 2006 following 2005's piece of World Series history.

Prior to every home opener, Nommensen gets together with his family and watches a VHS tape of the White Sox clinching game in their 1993 American League West title effort. There's no rhyme or reason as to why that game was selected, aside from that year marking the start of this Opening Day tradition.

In 2011, that viewing party took a momentary back seat to Nommensen's Cleveland travels, as he attended his first road opener at Progressive Field. But it's his home opener streak, sitting at 19 and counting, which he's looking to build to epic proportions.

"I've had arguments with my old boss at work, where I don't care what the situation is: I will be off that day," Nommensen said. "Unless I'm in the hospital, that's the only way I'm not going. I want to go as long as humanly possible."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen and follow him on twitter at @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.