Opening Day Diary

April 9

It’s 3:20 a.m., and I can’t wait to get up. It’s Opening Day.

My job for the day: join Murph and Mac at the new Public House, and ramp up to the Giants’ home opener against the Braves at 1:35. Park at KNBR, and walk 10 blocks down to the restaurant.

It’s now 4:30 a.m., and I am walking down 3rd street, fast. REAL fast.

4:45 a.m., I have arrived at the Public House. The old Acme Chop House has been remodeled to include a Taqueria on the 3rd Street side, and two bars on the ballpark side. One bar includes a wall of kegs, reminiscent of my days at UC Santa Barbara.

Beer at 5:00 a.m. ? Tempting, but I’m a professional, and there are rules here. One latte, please.

At 5:00 a.m. there is already on audience of four, including one guy who came from the Central Valley. Devoted Murph and Mackies, and testimony to KNBR’s blowtorch. The countdown to the opening of the bars begins … 6:00 a.m. It’s the law.

Some people were apparently counting down for real. One guy was on his second beer by 6:20 a.m. I’m guessing he’ll be strug-gling by game time. Talk about on-base percentage: just about every bar stool is occupied by 8:00 a.m. Pace yourselves, people.

Giants President Larry Baer comes by after 8:00 a.m. and dons the Lincecum wig and wool hat. Paulie also dons the gear, plus shades, a tremendous look. Someone suggested an additional accessory, but we’re not going to go there.

Show’s over and it’s time to go to The Bunker, KNBR’s ballpark studio, for updates during Gary Radnich’s show. It’s a tremendous convenience for us, although the window allows people to peek in while I’m working: now I know how zoo animals feel. The nice part is people smile and wave, just like at the zoo, but they can’t toss peanuts.

Oh, look, there goes Jerry Rice. He has already tweeted that he’s throwing out the first pitch. Murph speculated this morning about who might catch him, and I suggested a little role-reversal. Murph pooh-pooh’d the notion, saying Joe Montana would not come out to do something like that, but I wasn’t thinking of Joe.

Said hello to one of my son’s Pony League teammates and his mom. Can’t believe it was nine years ago. Kid’s all grown up. Another one of their Pony League teammates was Jared Lansford, Carney’s kid who is pitching in the A’s organization.

Down to the field for batting practice and a quick “hello” to Gary Radnich, who has been running and riffing with a parade of guests for three hours. Gary didn’t recognize me because I was wearing a hat and shades. We close out his show on what is shaping up as a picture-perfect day.

Watched the highly-touted rookie Jason Heyward of the Braves in the cage. Kid is put together. When the ball meets his bat, it “gets gone” in a hurry. It’s ridiculous to call him “J Hey Kid.” Do not bring Willie Mays into this.

The field and Press Box are jam-packed. It’s Plumage Day. The Peacocks are strutting around, shaking hands and making sure they’re seen and looking important, chests puffing out. I’m talking about the local sports media. Just hilarious.

Jerry Rice throws out the first pitch to … Steve Young. Role reversal. Then you knew this was coming : Rice runs a skinny post to second base, but Young underthrows him. It might help if he threw a football instead of a baseball. Rice does a nice job of coming back to the ball to make the catch.

I was thinking “what if he breaks a finger catching that thing? ” Rice has a golf appointment next week, his Nationwide Tour debut at Stonebrae in the East Bay. Always a new challenge for Rice.

My “key to the game” in the pre-game Diamond Notes talked about how Jonathan Sanchez needed to focus amid the excitement of opening day. Players tend to get a little more amped up, and in Sanchez’s case that could mean a high pitch count and another 5th or 6th inning exit. Sure enough, he had 65 pitches in the first three innings and was gone by the 5th.

The Giants fell behind 4-0 but the bullpen did a terrific job and the Giants clawed their way back. It’s 4-2 in the 9th inning, and Billy Wagner comes in. He can still throw 96 miles an hour and it looks like the game is over.

Then Velez doubles and Edgar Renteria, the hottest hitter on the planet, golfs one into the left field bleachers. Why did Wagner throw another slider? Renteria’s healthy elbow has allowed him to extend through the zone and drive the ball, and he guesses right. As I wrote in a previous blog, if he returns close to form it’ll be a big plus for the Giants.

An 11 for 15 start. The most hits in the first four games in San Francisco Giants history. That’ll do.

It’s the 13th inning and the light goes off in Bobby Cox’s head. He realizes he hasn’t been thrown out yet. He argues a strike call with Bob Davidson and gets the hook. Add another one for the record.

Most fans are still around on a sun-splashed day. They are getting more than their money’s worth.

The Giants hitters are, unfortunately, looking like last year’s version : anxious, swinging at first pitches too often, grounding into double plays, and no walks. That is until … Juan Uribe, of all people, draws a bases on balls with two outs. He’s not a base-stealer but with two outs Bruce Bochy gets tired of waiting around. His bench is almost empty and it’s time to go for a win, so he sends Uribe.

Aaron Rowand swings and misses at a Kris Medlen pitch, and his follow-through lodges into Brian McCann’s armpit as McCann tries to throw out Uribe. The throw is wide right by ten feet and Uribe advances to third, a huge play because it increases the ways in which the Giants can score a run. McCann argues that he was interfered with but Rowand didn’t leave the box or lean over the plate.

Speculation is that Medlen won’t throw a breaking pitch low and away with a runner at third, but we’re talking Aaron Rowand here. Why not throw him that pitch every time? He usually bites.

Medlen throws a breaking pitch, but not low enough. Rowand gets enough of the bat barrel on the ball to ground one sharply into the hole. Yunel Escobar’s desperation throw would have been late, but Rowand does what Rowand does — he gets dirty, sliding into first, game over.

The Giants were not supposed to win this game, but they did, and they’re still the only unbeaten team in baseball at 4-0. They played more than 100 games last year before they came back from a 3-0 deficit. This win has meaning for that alone. A team that already has confidence because of its pitching just got a little bit more. Oh yes, and the “J Hey Kid” struck out four times.

A perfect day. I love baseball.

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