For fans, it felt like a comfortable, well-worn, over-stuffed chair. There’s something about Opening Day and the return of baseball that conveys a sense that all is right with the world.
For Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves players, the experience seemed not only uncomfortable, but overwhelming. Just ask Phillies pitcher, Cole Hamels, who couldn’t find his rhythm. He appeared to be dazed, gave up several home runs and ultimately took the loss.
Although Hamels has had big game experience, this was his first start on Opening Day. Likewise, consider the swirling emotions that Phillies catcher Erik Kratz and utility infielder Kevin Frandsen must have felt. Both have spent years in the minors dreaming about a major league season opener. What a surreal night for them.
Neither had ever been on a big league Opening Day roster let alone had the thrill of actually playing in an Opening Day game. All that changed in Atlanta. Kratz was in the starting lineup as catcher, and Frandsen got a chance to pinch hit. Good for them.
This was also the night when two new Phillies found themselves in manager Charlie Manuel‘s starting lineup. Center fielder Ben Revere and third baseman Michael Young hope to settle in and become consistent contributors to the Phillies’ pennant aspirations. They seem to have what it takes.
In the end, it was a veteran Phillie who kept the game within reach. Although Chase Utley hadn’t played in an Opening Day game since 2010 because of ailing knees, his return was sweet.
Utley fell a double short of the cycle and ran like he had the knees of a track star. If he had any nervousness, it didn’t show. In the end, it wasn’t quite enough to overcome the slugging power of the Braves.
Opening Day is finished and will quickly fade into the grind of a 162-game schedule. However, for Hamels, Kratz and Frandsen, Opening Day 2013 will always be memorable.