Adam Wainwright will be on the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals as they open the 2014 season—a role he is familiar and comfortable with as the ace of the staff. But when asked about his favorite Opening Day, it was one where he didn’t even pitch. It was just about stepping onto the field.
“Just knowing I made the big league squad,” recalls Wainwright of his first opener in 2006. “Going up north and Tony (La Russa) telling me ‘you made the team, you’re going up north with us’ that was just such an honor. Something you never forget. Lining up on that line after the Clydesdales came through, the fans are rocking, hearing your name announced—definitely my top moment.”
Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny has similar feelings about his first Opening Day—which was also his Major League debut, back in 1994 with the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I had dreamt about that since I was big enough to dream, so that was a big deal,” shared Matheny. “You never have any guarantees you’re ever going to make it to the big leagues…so at that point, it’s the accomplishment, I knew I get that first day under my belt, nobody could ever take that away from me–I was a big leaguer. Maybe it was only going to be one day but it was a lot more than what anybody ever thought I was going to do.”
Forty nine years earlier—on April 17, 1945 to be exact, Red Schoendienst experienced his first Opening Day.
“We sat there and talked in the clubhouse for quite some time about what you’re going to do,” recalls Schoendienst. “I was in left field then. It was in old Wrigley Field, the wind was blowing pretty good.”
Schoendienst, who hit third behind centerfielder Johnny Hoop and in front of catcher Walker Cooper, had a triple in four at-bats that afternoon as the Cardinals fell to the Cubs 3-2.
“Opening Day baseball it’s always good,” said Schoendienst. “No matter if it’s in St. Louis, Chicago, or New York. It’s always great, the first game to be played. Usually, as a player, after the first pitch I was pretty well settled. You can’t wait until it gets going and then after you’re out there and the first pitch and the first inning is over, you’re pretty well relaxed.”
The Cardinals have won four of their last five road openers (2012, 2010, 2006, and 2005). Overall, St. Louis is 55-65-2 on Opening Day.