Rookie lefty T.J. McFarland had been to an Opening Day at Comiskey Park in Chicago as a fan, he but never attended one since he became a pro in 2008.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who debuted with the Orioles last May 29, had never been to a big league Opening Day game until today at Tropicana Field.
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But there are two guys in Orioles uniforms whose stories are worth highlighting today.
Third base coach Bobby Dickerson is 47. He was drafted out of college in 1987. He’s been in pro baseball since, always in the minors. He has never attended a major league Opening Day despite a 26-year baseball career.
“It’s an exciting time for me,” Dickerson said. “Spring training was big too, because it helped for this day, a lot of the nervousness or whatever you want to call it was taken care of in spring training … I’ve put in a lot of years to get this opportunity.”
About three hours before game time, Dickerson estimated he had received about 30 good luck texts from friends, family members and people in the game.
“I’ve been telling players I’ve worked with [over the years] to keep grinding,” Dickerson said. “I’ve gotten texts from players who didn’t make it telling me the same thing, ‘Hey you practiced what you preached.’”
Dickerson’s special week continues Friday when he’ll take the Camden Yards field in the home opener as the Orioles’ third base coach. And his family will be there.
He said his children, 16 and 12, received Easter baskets on Sunday. And in each basket was a plane ticket to Baltimore for the opener.
One more cool Opening Day story: This is the second opener for Orioles’ designated hitter Steve Pearce (he made the Pittsburgh Pirates’ initial 2011 roster), but the first one he has started.
And he’s in the lineup against AL reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price roughly an hour from Pearce’s hometown of Lakeland, Fla.
Pearce had to get 20 tickets for the opener including one for his father, Steve Sr., whose birthday is today.
“This is what I’ve worked my whole career for. And I am just glad I could do it here in Tampa, near my hometown [Lakeland], 40 or more minutes up the road. I got about 20 people tickets, and that’s not including people I couldn’t get tickets for. So there are a ton of people coming,” he said. “And today is also my dad’s birthday. It’s just an amazing opportunity and I am so glad I could do it here.”
Pearce’s story is the ultimate one of perseverance. Pearce played for the Orioles (twice), Houston Astros and New York Yankees last year. The Orioles put him on waivers in July and then reclaimed him in September. They took him off the 40-man roster again this winter, but he had a great spring – hit seven homers in Grapefruit League games – and made the Opening Day lineup.
“I have had so many ups and downs with my baseball career. There were times, like when I left Pittsburgh, that I wondered whether if this was going to be the last time I stepped on a big league field. There were so many injuries and bad luck,” said Pearce, who turns 30 this month. “It made me a better person, I fought through it, I overcame it and I was in the big leagues last year with three teams. And now I made it on an Opening Day roster, incredible.”