Stage set for full slate of openers
Twenty-six clubs begin their quests toward October
It's the National League, it's the American League, it's the quest for a World Series.
It's the ceremonial first pitches, it's the giant unfurled flags and the bunting, it's the Findlay Market Parade in Cincinnati.
It's Opening Day in Major League Baseball. The Yankees and Red Sox got the party started on Sunday night -- a 9-7 Boston win at Fenway Park -- and here is a look at the 13 games on Monday's schedule as well as the final opener on Tuesday at Tropicana Field (all times ET):
Phillies at Nationals, 1:05 p.m.
Fans are urged to arrive early for this one, due to high security. President Barack Obama is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, continuing a tradition by all sitting presidents but one (Jimmy Carter) since William Howard Taft did it for the first time 100 years ago at a Senators opener.
Roy Halladay makes his official debut for the Phillies, and for the record, he is a .500 pitcher on Opening Day (3-3 in six starts).
Marlins at Mets, 1:10 p.m.
Citi Field -- open for its second season -- will be rocking when Darryl Strawberry throws out the ceremonial first pitch, followed by a matchup of Josh Johnson vs. Johan Santana.
Four U.S. combat veterans, Former Capt. Meredith Melcher, Former Sgt. Daniel Jens, Former Staff Sgt. (Retired) Ron Henry and Former Sgt. David Clemo, who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan, form "4TROOPS" and will perform the National Anthem and God Bless America. More than 140 veterans representing all five U.S. Armed Services -- Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy -- will be on the field during the pregame presentation of a football field-size American flag.
The bridge located beyond the right-center-field wall will be dedicated and named Shea Bridge in honor of Bill Shea, who was the driving force in bringing NL baseball back to New York in 1962. His son, Bill Shea Jr., and daughter, Kathy Shea Anfuso, will be on hand for the ceremonies.
Cardinals at Reds, 1:10 p.m.
Because of its status as baseball's first pro franchise in 1869, the Reds are always scheduled as the "traditional opener." After Hall of Famer Johnny Bench leads the annual Findlay Market Parade through downtown Cincinnati, the Reds will face the defending NL Central champions. Aaron Harang makes his club-record fifth straight Opening Day start. Opposite him will be Chris Carpenter, the runner-up in last year's NL Cy Young Award balloting.
Appropriately enough, Bench will catch the ceremonial first pitch, thrown by George Grande, who stepped down as the main Reds television play-by-play voice after 17 years at the end of last season.
While former Bengals and Colts tight end Ben Utecht sings the national anthem, Haiti earthquake relief volunteers from the American Red Cross and Matthew 25: Ministries will hold a giant American flag in the outfield. Four F-16 jets from the 178th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard will perform a flyover. Saxophonist Elan Trotman will perform God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch.
Dodgers at Pirates, 1:35 p.m.
The Pirates will celebrate center fielder Andrew McCutchen's 2009 Baseball America Rookie of the Year Award and his 2010 "Pride of the Pirates" award before facing the defending NL West champs.
A color guard consisting of local members and leaders of the Boy Scouts of America will unfurl the American flag in center field to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts. Native Pittsburgher and Nashville recording artist Sarah Marince will sing God Bless America, and the national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Pittsburgher Jackie Evancho.
The ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by Jamie and Ali McMutrie, two local women who rescued 53 children from the Port-Au Prince Haiti Orphanage after the devastating earthquake and are now working to erect a new facility outside the Haitian capital.
Blue Jays at Rangers, 2:05 p.m.
The Rangers will reach the 40 million mark in attendance at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, dating back to 1994, and an individual representing the 40 millionth fan will be selected at random and will be honored during the game.
This marks the 24th consecutive year that the Rangers have honored "Texas Heroes" as part of their Opening Day ceremonies. The ceremonial first pitch duties go to former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. The 301st Fighter Wing Honor Guard of the Naval Air Station Fort Worth will present the colors and airmen and families of the 301st Fighter Wing will unfurl an oversized American flag in the outfield. Country legend Neal McCoy will sing the Star-Spangled Banner and Michael Borts, lead singer of the Dallas Knights, will perform O Canada. Then comes a flyover of four F-16's from the 301st Fighter Wing.
Indians at White Sox, 2:05 p.m.
White Sox general manager Ken Williams called for the return of the Blackout at this game, asking all fans to wear black. The Blackout originally took place in Game No. 163 for the White Sox and Twins in 2008, when Chicago beat Minnesota, 1-0, in the AL Central tiebreaker at U.S. Cellular. Williams wants the fans to set an exciting tone from the season's outset.
Mark Buehrle gets the start for the White Sox, marking his franchise-record eighth Opening Day start. Flash back to 2005, and you might remember that Buehrle combined on a two-hit shutout of the Indians on Opening Day, beginning Chicago's march to a World Series title.
"With all the adrenaline going, it's kind of like a World Series game," Buehrle said of pitching on Opening Day. "You just have to try and maintain it."
Jake Westbrook was the Indians' starter in that 2005 opener, and now he's back to try against Buehrle again. Both pitchers hurled eight sterling innings on that cold day.
Four members of the Chicago Blackhawks who competed in the Vancouver Olympics will throw out the first pitch: Patrick Kane (USA), Duncan Keith (Canada), Brent Seabrook (Canada) and Jonathan Toews (Canada). Prior to the first pitch, Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas of the BoDeans will play a special acoustic set on the field.
Rockies at Brewers, 2:10 p.m.
It's time to commemorate the 40th season in Brewers history following their move from Seattle. Lew Krausse, the Opening Day starting pitcher for the Brewers in 1970, will throw out the first pitch to Jerry McNertney, the Opening Day catcher for that team. Joseph Attanasio, father of Brewers chairman and principal owner Mark Attanasio, will sing the national anthem.
Prior to the game, the Klement's Famous Racing Sausages will take part in the Eighth Annual Klement's Opening Day First Brat Relay Race, beginning at noon at the Klement's plant on Chase Ave. The Sausages will deliver the "First Brat" to Miller Park.
Cubs at Braves, 4:10 p.m.
The 24th and final Opening Day as Braves manager for Bobby Cox and yet another Opening Day for Chipper Jones, who will mark his 12th start at third base, two more than any other player in Braves history. The Braves are 3-3 in six Opening Day games at Turner Field, but this is their first since 2004.
The Braves and Cubs have split the previous two openers they have played against each other, the last in 1993, a 1-0 Atlanta win. Pregame ceremonies will include the national anthem performed by Travis Tritt and a "Braves Country" celebration hosted by legendary Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Furman Bisher. Pilots from Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi will perform a flyover and a Beatles tribute band, The Return, will perform before and after the game in Fan Plaza.
Tigers at Royals, 4:10 p.m.
Zack Greinke makes his first start since winning the AL Cy Young Award last fall and will be opposed by the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who was third in voting.
"I'm excited, but it's the same thing we talked about for years: It doesn't matter who's on the other side pitching for the other team. All that matters is what I can go out there and do," Verlander said.
The color guard from Whiteman Air Force Base will present the flag and four T-38 Talon supersonic jets will fly over following the national anthem.
Padres at D-backs, 5:10 p.m.
"It's a great day because it's the beginning of what's ahead," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said of his first Opening Day as a manager. "The excitement is there, the optimism is always there, the energy in the ballpark is unlike anything else outside of the playoffs. The players feed off that, the staff love it, the fans love it. It's a new beginning."
It's a chance to see Kurt Warner throw out a first pitch at Chase Field, to hear Joe Nichols sing the anthem, and to watch four F-16s from Luke Air Force Base fly over the ballpark.
Dan Haren will be starting his second opener, his first with Arizona, opposite Jon Garland.
Giants at Astros, 7:05 p.m.
The Giants and Astros have met seven times in season openers, and San Francisco is 6-1 in those games. Roy Oswalt starts for Houston at Minute Maid Park, which is expected to have the roof open. Tim Lincecum makes his first start in a bid for a third consecutive NL Cy Young Award.
The Astros will have a street festival, a blood drive and pep rallies with front office personnel, broadcasters and players in attendance. Opening Day ceremonies will also include the celebration of the franchise's 45-year relationship with NASA, which coincides with the club's being renamed the Astros in 1965. Texas country music artist Jack Ingram will sing the national anthem.
Twins at Angels, 10:05 p.m.
This series starts the season with a meeting of returning division champs. In a familiar scene, the Angels will precede Opening Day with a 2009 AL West Division championship flag ceremony. Fans can watch the flag being raised at Angel Stadium, site of this year's All-Star Game, and they can watch Tim Salmon, who led them to their only World Series title in 2002, throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Taylor Longbrake will sing the national anthem. The military flyover will be a C-17 out of March Air Force Base.
Mariners at Athletics, 10:05 p.m.
Ben Sheets starts for Oakland in his first appearance since September 2008 with Milwaukee. Felix Hernandez, the runner-up for the AL Cy Young last year, is on the hill for Seattle.
Before the game, 1988 AL Rookie of the Year Walt Weiss will present Oakland closer Andrew Bailey with his 2009 Rookie of the Year Award. Former A's shortstop Bert Campaneris will be honored for his induction into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame and the club will also acknowledge the 2010 NCAA tournament performance of the St. Mary's University men's basketball team, with guard Mickey McConnell throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Orioles at Rays, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday
The last time James Shields started on Opening Day against the Orioles, he won and Tampa Bay went on to the first World Series in franchise history.
This is the first time the Rays have opened the season at home since 2005 and the sixth time overall. It will be the fourth time -- and the third in the last five years -- that the Rays have opened the season against the Orioles, who will have Kevin Millwood on the mound.
Admiral Eric Thor Olson, the eighth and current Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and Silver Star.
A 300-by-150-foot flag will be unfurled in the outfield by volunteer servicemen and -women from the U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg and the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base. The Tampa-based Gulf Coast Children's Choir, consisting of 44 local boys and girls from third to eighth grade, will perform the national anthem.