Opening Day is one of the most evocative and meaningless days in professional sports. The game is worth 1/162 of a season, yet what we see resonates because there is nothing else to obscure it.
So, as meaningless as they may be, here are some first impressions from Angels Stadium, which might have the best game production (good music, clever promotions, meaningful highlights and The Rally Monkey) in pro sports:
-Delmon Young really does look like a different player. He turned on a fastball to pull a two-run homer to left, he stole a base, and he looks quick in the outfield.
He went 2-for-4 with an infield hit, and when he hit into a key doubleplay in the eighth, at least he was trying to pull the ball with authority.
-Jesse Crain looked sharp, following a good spring, and in a muddled bullpen, he could wind up being a key player. Pitching coach Rick Anderson told me that Matt Guerrier will be his 8th inning man, and Crain and Jose Mijares would work in the sixth and seventh. But if, as I suspect, Jon Rauch isn't going to hold down the closer's job, everybody needs to be ready for battlefield promotion. Especially Crain. (He's a heckuva guy, too, by the way.)
-Scott Baker has pitched in his share of big games for the Twins, but he looked nervous in his first Opening Day start, walking two in the first and failing to make it out of the fifth. This doesn't prevent him from having an excellent season, it just makes you worry that if he wound up starting Game 1 of the playoffs, that he might experience the same jitters.
My column for the Tuesday paper suggests that the Twins don't have an ace or a closer, but that Baker is closer to being an ace than Rauch is to being a closer.
-Justin Morneau, after a slow spring, got his first hit and walk, and drilled a liner at the first baseman with the bases loaded in the seventh.
-Jose Mijares was terrible.
-Pat Neshek survived, a good sign, because he's probably going to have to ease his way back to key situations.
-Said hello to Torii Hunter before the game, and Joe Christensen interviewed him. Same guy. Wonderful guy to talk to, as always.
-Hideki Matsui is one of the classiest guys in baseball. The huge contigent of Japanese reporters who followed him in New York have shifted to Anaheim, and Matsui is unfailingly polite and accomodating with them. He's an easy guy to pull for.
That doesn't mean you should feed him a cookie with two strikes, as Baker did.
-Now that Target Field is open, the percentage of games the Twins will play in good and great ballparks this season is astonishing. Angels Stadium isn't an architectural marvel, but it's a great place to watch a game. Great weather, great sightlines, and even the fake rocks in centerfield work in a Disney kind of way.
-You can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib.
-I'm doing morning commentary at 7:14 a.m. on WJON in St. Cloud and 7:45 on am-1500.