Fans range from giddy to somber on baseball's opening day
The 2013 baseball season officially opened last night, when the Houston Astros beat Texas, but don't tell that to the thousands of fans celebrating Opening Day today.
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Before Atlanta's 7-5 win over Philadelphia, the Braves brought out some of their past stars for pregame ceremonies. Dale Murphy was the honorary captain, newly retired Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch — firing a strike to Brian McCann — and Phil Niekro was handed a microphone and yelled "Play ball!"Skip to next paragraph
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Jones retired after last season, ending a career that lasted almost two decades — all with the Braves. "I'm missing it today," Jones said as he sat in the Braves' dugout before the game, "but I won't miss it tomorrow." In Washington, there is an abundance of optimism. Good reason for it, as the Nationals come off a season in which they led the majors with 98 wins.
Stephen Strasburg threw the first pitch against the Marlins at 1:09 p.m. That was 4 minutes later than scheduled, because all the pregame festivities, which included unveiling a red, white and blue sign atop the outfield scoreboard that read "NL East Division Champions" in all caps.
The Nationals also gave out all manner of individual awards from 2012: a Gold Glove for first baseman Adam LaRoche; Silver Sluggers for LaRoche, shortstop Ian Desmond and Strasburg; NL Manager of the Year for Davey Johnson; and an executive of the year plaque for Rizzo.
"Too much ceremony," the 70-year-old Johnson observed, "but other than that, it's a fun day."
Inside, former All-Star shortstop Walt Weiss prepared for his first game as a major league manager — a 5-4 loss in 10 innings. A year ago, he was coaching his son's high school team in Colorado; now, he's running the Rockies.
"I slept all right," he said. "I slept better than I thought I would. It's an exciting day for everybody. Everybody that's here today and involved, it's a big day. It should feel a little different."
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And, after seven weeks of a spring training that sometimes seemed as if it lasted forever, it was also time to resume those big league routines.
The visitor's clubhouse at Nationals Park was well-stocked for a full season of passing the time, with brand new, still shrink-wrapped games of cribbage, dominoes and chess-checkers on a shelf in a vacant locker.
"Cards and cribbage," Dunn said. "Cribbage has been big the last couple of years."