3/25/2014 12:00 P.M. ET
Opening Day an experience like no other
By Jake Arrieta / Chicago Cubs
Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta was the Orioles' Opening Day starter on April 6, 2012, and picked up the win in a 4-2 victory over the Twins at Camden Yards. He's one of three Cubs pitchers who have made Opening Day starts, joining Jason Hammel, who kicked off the Orioles' season in '13, and Chicago's Jeff Samardzija. In 2013, Arrieta was the starting pitcher for the O's in their home opener, April 5, which also was against the Twins. He didn't get a decision in that game, which Baltimore won, 9-5. Here's his take on Opening Day and how special it is:
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There's a lot of emotions that come up when you get the news that you're going to be the Opening Day guy. The energy and the excitement is at a very high level. The optimism is a huge part of the excitement -- everyone's starting from scratch and it's the start of a long journey. There's a lot of things that run through your mind. It's an extremely special time for not only the guys who have been there before, but the young guys who are experiencing their first Opening Day. It's a feeling that you don't get very often throughout the season -- not that the excitement isn't there every day, but there's a different feel for Opening Day.
There's optimism from the fans' perspective, the front office and down to the players and coaching staff. There's so much going on and things you're trying to process, it's almost something you have to reflect on after the fact. It's something I've been fortunate enough to do a few times now. It's just special for the whole organization, everyone involved with the team, the city. It's obviously an honor to represent one of the 30 teams on the Opening Day roster. It's an opportunity that doesn't come around very often for many people.
Do I have butterflies? Absolutely. There's a few starts in particular where you get that internal feeling of almost like weightlessness. My debut was one of them against the Yankees, the home opener against Minnesota one year, the home opener against Detroit and then the Opening Day start against Minnesota. Those starts are special. It's almost like a kid's mind-set of the first game of the season, getting ready and looking forward to the entire season to come. And it's not that you don't get that same feeling for your other starts, but there comes a certain point of the season where you're so focused and so locked in on a game plan and the opposition that you almost completely disregard everything that's going on around you. Days like Opening Day and your debut, you really take it all in and try to experience it for what it is.
I've always had family there, and a lot of friends come in town for the opener. I've got a tremendous support system of close friends. It's great to have them there to experience that with me from a different point of view. It's an experience we get to share together.
I'll usually look in the stands before the national anthem for a little glance at my family, my wife and my two kids, in particular. It's something I've done since college. She's there supporting me every time out. I think it's just a "thanks" for always being there, just a nod to let her know and the kids know that I know they're there supporting me.
Opening Day is unique because of the energy, the controlled anxiousness, the adrenaline that seems to take over and triggers emotions that pinpoint certain memories and thoughts from those days. I can recall situations in the game, but for the most part, it's the emotions that you remember and the atmosphere and the crowd and the noise level and the vendors screaming. Those are things I recall pretty vividly from those games.
Jake Arrieta is a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.