A day to smile
Opening Day is here — a day when everything is fresh and new, and every team's record is perfect.
A day when everything is fresh and new, when every team's record is perfect, when hope springs eternal.
Opening Day feels extra special this year, given the offseason lockout that delayed the season.
Ken Caminiti wasn't always a strong starter early in the season — it took him time to heat up. But one Opening Day performance of his, 1994, stands out above the others.
The Astros were a brand new team that season: a new GM (Bob Watson), new manager (Terry Collins), new uniforms and a new logo.
And Ken was a brand new man after going to rehab the previous offseason.
Ken and the new-look Astros — in the newly created National League Central Division with the Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, and Reds — opened the 1994 season on April 4 at home against the Expos.
Ken started the game 0-for-5. In the top of the twelfth inning, new Houston reliever Mitch Williams, reinforcing his nickname of “Wild Thing,” got two quick outs before imploding, allowing five straight batters to reach base — including two bases-loaded walks — to give Montreal a two-run lead and the hometown crowd someone to boo.
New Astros? The letdown felt the same.
But Houston rallied in the bottom half, getting two runners on base for Jeff Bagwell, who singled home a run. Luis Gonzalez whiffed, caught looking for the second out, which brought Ken up to bat against pitcher Denis Boucher.
Ken dug in, kicking craters into the batter’s box dirt and taking his practice swings. Ready. Boucher threw the first pitch up in the zone, and Ken pounced, driving it to left-center. Off the wall!
Finley and Bagwell raced home for the improbable win, and Ken started walking off the field, victorious, when he was mobbed by his teammates. The fans stood and cheered, and the new Ken emerged from the scrum with a smile. Baseball can be fun sometimes. Especially when you win. Especially on Opening Day.