Ken Griffey Jr. swinging again for Seattle, K-Rod now closing for the New York Mets. A championship rematch at Fenway Park, a new start for CC Sabathia.
A year after the Tampa Bay Rays proved most anything is possible, opening day brings renewed spirit all over baseball — plus worries of more and more empty seats.
Even after finishing with a majors-worst 102 losses last year and then losing their general manager in a scandal this spring, the Washington Nationals were eager to get going.
“Once the bell rings and the national anthem plays and the games really count, I think these guys are going to be really energized,” manager Manny Acta said.
Twelve games are set for Monday, starting in Cincinnati when Francisco Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield and the revamped Mets visit chilly Great American Ball Park. Later, AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee and the Cleveland Indians will watch former President George W. Bush throw out the first ball in Texas.
The AL champion Rays get an early test in Boston against Josh Beckett and the Red Sox. At night, Manny Ramirez begins his first full year in LA when the Dodgers open at San Diego.
A forecast of snow, cold and high winds in Chicago forced postponement of the game between Kansas City and the White Sox. They’ll try again Tuesday.
The 2009 season opened Sunday night in Philadelphia, where the defending World Series champion Phillies played Atlanta. Braves star Chipper Jones, who led the majors in batting last year, singled for the first hit of the new year and Brian McCann followed with a home run.
Several big names will be absent at the get-go. Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Joe Mauer, Trevor Hoffman and John Lackey are among the injured. Also missing is Phillies reliever J.C. Romero, suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for a banned substance.
While A-Rod admitted taking steroids in 2001-03 while with Texas, the nonstop talk about performance-enhancing drugs seemed to diminish this spring. But concerns over the effects of the economy certainly increased.
MLB expects to see overall attendance drop as much as 7 percent, despite two-thirds of the 30 teams lowering either their average ticket price or some level of seats.
The Toronto Blue Jays offered season tickets in the upper deck for under $1 per game and the Minnesota Twins tied the cost of 6,500 outfield seats to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
“You won’t see it as much in New York, but I think the teams that are going to be hurt a little bit obviously are small-market teams,” Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said.