I always say, once you experience your first Opening Day, you will want to have 100 of them. There's nothing like Opening Day. It is unlike any game we play the rest of the season.
There's a chill in the air, and everyone is pumped up. I remember in Cincinnati, Opening Day was unbelievable. It was like a holiday with a parade. I lived right next to the ballpark, and it was crazy to see people out there so early before the game. That's Opening Day.
Last year's home opener in Chicago might have been the coldest I've ever been for a game. So what? I hit a homer, and the fans were so excited for the new season.
Growing up, I was a Red Sox fan. But it doesn't matter if you're a fan of the worst team in baseball. Everyone feels you've got a chance to win it when the season starts. There's a lot of optimism. You can talk all the smack you want with your friends, but on Opening Day, everyone is 0-0.
Spring Training is long, and the players are ready to play some real games. The stats all count now. It's a feeling of owning the day and understanding I'm here for a reason.
If you're not nervous on Opening Day, then you don't care, to be honest with you. When you pick up the bat and go to the on-deck circle for the first time, the butterflies are flying. That means you care about the game. You care about the fans. You care about the city. It's pretty surreal.
If guys tell you they're not thinking about getting that first hit, they'd be lying. You want to put numbers up there right away. It doesn't matter what kind of hit you get. It could be a blooper, or a broken-bat single over the first baseman's head. You just want to get some numbers up there so you can breathe again.
I'll never forget Opening Day with the Reds in 2015. It was tied 2-2 against the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth inning. I was 0-for-3, and I came up with runners on first and third and one out. I'm just trying to get the run in from third. I'd take a fielder's choice. I got a good pitch and hit a three-run homer. I flipped the bat. I felt like I was walking on air. I got my first hit, first homer and first RBI all at the same time. We wound up winning 5-2, and it's one of the best memories of my career.
That's what is so great about baseball. It is a failing sport. You fail more than you succeed. You might be 0-for-3 on the day, but there's always an opportunity to be a hero.
On Opening Day, everyone says it's only the first game; it's still early. But you can't take anything for granted. You never know. If you lose games early you should have won, and then you finish a game or two out of the playoffs, you're in trouble. Those games were a big deal.
We'll be ready to put our best foot forward against Detroit on Opening Day. There's nothing like hearing your name introduced for the first time, and the crowd roars.
It's the start of a new season. It's go time. Let's play ball.
As told to Ed Sherman.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.