Opening Day is always special, but there's something about starting the season this year that has me much more relaxed and at ease. I guess because it's my second season now as an Angel, and I know this is my home and this is my team.
Last year's season opener was really memorable, because it was real tough. It happened to be at Minnesota, which was a little ironic considering I had spent the previous nine Opening Days as a member of the Twins. That night was pretty rough for me, but it was a night I'll never forget.
I broke into the big leagues in 1997 and in 1998, but my first Opening Day start didn't come until 1999. I remember that the game was in Detroit, and it was just an awesome feeling. It was weird, and I spent the most of the day in the bathroom, because I was so nervous.
I like the outdoor experience of Opening Day, something we didn't have with the Twins, because you often get the military jets doing a flyover. I love those flyovers. But while I consider myself pretty quick, I can never seem to catch up with those jets. A lot of times I hear them coming but I still miss them when I look up. Six of my first nine season openers were on the road, and I love it when they have those flyovers in the open sky.
Another benefit of playing on the West Coast was that I got to see a lot of Opening Day games on TV this year. I woke up, had a nice breakfast and turned on the TV. Just watching different guys -- guys I know and guys I have played against. It helped me get that special feel. I said to myself, 'Hey, it's baseball season.' I was ready to go myself just after watching those games.
Opening Day also helps you get the adrenaline pumping as an athlete. You know the games truly count -- your Spring Training stats don't end up on the back of your baseball card -- and you have all the fans, the TV, all the energy, and you can just feel the difference.
It's a totally different feeling mentally, but physically there isn't a whole lot of difference. You're still playing the same game.
All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove-winner Torii Hunter enjoyed a strong inaugural season with the Angels last year, hitting a team-high 37 doubles and contributing 60 extra-base hits while having another outstanding season in center field. He also hit .389 and drove in five runs in five postseason games for the American League West champs. Hunter went 1-for-4 in the Angels' 3-0, Opening Day win over Oakland on Monday.
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