Sun is shining, the captain is on the field

April, 1, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- They're watering the infield at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, 4 1/2 hours before the first pitch here. First-base coach Ron Johnson was the lone member of the Red Sox who has popped out of the clubhouse, cup of coffee in hand, leaning on the dugout railing and speaking on his cellphone, but Jason Varitek is now on the field, playing catch with trainer Mike Reinold.

This is the 40th home opener for the Rangers since their previous incarnation, the Washington Senators, moved in 1971. For David Ortiz, whose dreadful starts the last two Aprils have been the subject of intense scrutiny, there are probably better teams to open against. Last season, Big Papi went just 4 for 29 against Texas pitching, a .138 average, and lifetime is 1 for 10 with 4 strikeouts against the Rangers' Opening Day starter, C.J. Wilson.

Had an informal chat on Thursday with Ortiz, who was sitting in the stands behind home plate. "Game looks so easy from here,'' he said with a big smile, adding that when he watches the game on TV, he thinks he can hit every pitch, "including the bad ones.'' That reminded him of the story he tells about his father, who used to call him all the time criticizing things he saw on TV that Ortiz was doing. That ended, Ortiz said, the day he got his father tickets right behind the plate for a game against CC Sabathia and the Yankees. "His eyes were this big after the game,'' Ortiz said. "He realized just how hard it is to hit.''

Ortiz talked about how much work he had to do this winter to get ready for the season, and how as you get older you can't take a break if you expect to keep up. He also said that even when he's struggling, he still feels extraordinarily fortunate to have had the career he has had. "When I was in Minnesota,'' he said, "I never imagined that this would happen. That's why I get mad when I see guys come to the park and be miserable. I know what a great life I have.''

And then there is my neighbor Pete, back in my hometown of Lunenburg, who posted this on his Facebook this morning:

"Shovelling slushy slop off my driveway four hours before the opening of the baseball season is a bummer. 'Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.'''

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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