With all apologies to the Athletics and Mariners, baseball is now really back, thanks to a game being played in this hemisphere, at an hour we could all see it and on actual television. The Cardinals beat the Marlins 4-1.
Our hemisphere, yes, but it often felt like a different universe. One in which lime green is an acceptable color for an outfield wall. Where players came in accompanied by Brazilian dancers. One in which Kyle Lohse of all people not only gets an Opening Night start, but handcuffs the new-look Marlins, not allowing a hit until the seventh inning. He ended the night tossing seven and a third innings of two-hit ball, with the Marlins only scoring when Fernando Salas allowed an inherited runner to score on a John Buck double.
As for the Cardinals, they struck early, two scoring on a David Freese single in the first, a third on a Rafael Furcal single in the second and an insurance run on a fielder’s choice in the eighth.
But the results of the game are less important and created less of an impression than this ballpark did. It’s loud in color, but thanks to the near no-no, it wasn’t too loud in voice. That outfield seems really, really big to me. Poor John Jay and Emilio Bonafacio seemed like they were running for miles at times.
Maybe the most important thing is that the home run sculpture/monstrosity didn’t go off, and thank goodness for that. The 7pm start meant that a lot of children could have been watching. Hopefully their parents covered their eyes when Muhammad Ali came out to “throw out” the first pitch. That was painful to watch given his condition and, with all respect to The Champ, I wonder who thought that was the best idea for Opening Night.
Anyway, baseball’s back folks. And today was the last day until the All-Star break when only one game is being played. Hallelujah.
If tonight was his last night in a Cardinals uniform, Matt Holliday made the most of it.
After sitting out most of the second half with a fractured thumb, the 36-year-old was activated from the disabled list on Friday and slotted in as a pinch-hitter during the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-0 shutout. What happened next could hardly have elicited more sentiment had it been scripted:
The solo shot was Holliday’s first home run as a pinch-hitter, and his first home run of any kind since August 9. The triumphant moment might have been the last of its kind in St. Louis, as it was reported earlier today that the Cardinals do not plan to exercise Holliday’s option in 2017.
Prior to the game, the left fielder released a statement in which he expressed his gratitude for the past eight seasons with the Cardinals’ organization:
I would like to thank Mr. Dewitt, Mo and the entire ownership group for the opportunity to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
I am proud of what we have accomplished on and off the field during the past seven years. I have also been humbled by the incredible support and participation in our Homers for Health program.
It has been an honor to play in front of such great fans and for such a historic organization. I can honestly say it has been a dream come true.
While I’m disappointed this could be it here in St. Louis, I understand that it might be time to move on.
I’d like to express my love and admiration for Tony, Mike and all of the coaches and staff that I have had the pleasure to do life with these past seven-plus years.
The most emotional part of this is my teammates and the relationships I’ve built with some of these guys over the years. Particularly, Adam and Yadi, to be considered part of the core with two of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.
Finally, I’m eternally thankful for the Lord bringing me to the city of St. Louis in August of 2008. Lots of cool stuff has happened since then. On behalf of my wife Leslee and our children Jackson, Ethan, Gracyn and Reed: Thank you!
Don’t interrupt Angel Pagan in the middle of a wild card race. Better yet, don’t interrupt him at all.
A fan learned that the hard way during Friday’s Giants-Dodgers game. In the fourth inning, a group of fans ran onto the field with white flowers in their hands, presumably to hand to Giants players. According to eyewitness accounts, one player was reprimanded by San Francisco starter Madison Bumgarner, while Buster Posey fended off another.
Angel Pagan, however, took more extreme and inventive measures.
On-field security started closing in on the fan as he approached Pagan, but didn’t appear to pick up the pace until the outfielder dropped him on the field.
Vin Scully, who was wrapping up the third-to-last game of his career, provided play-by-play of the incident.
A couple of kids, trying to steal a moment, slow down the game, running on the field and just taking a big moment on the big stage. They’ve got one of them in right field, and the other one is nailed down by Pagan in left field. And the crowd loved that! They went up to do something with Angel Pagan, but [Pagan] grabbed him and slammed him to the ground, and they’re taking him off the field. […] Doesn’t that bring you back to the ’60s, and the flower children? Oh what, you don’t remember the ’60s? Okay.
The next time you want to send a message to a player, maybe try a tweet (throw in a flower emoji or two if you feel so inclined). Just don’t make a showy display of affection in the middle of a game. It’s bound to go badly, at least where Angel Pagan is concerned.