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04/06/09 8:51 PM ET
First MLB opener sticks with Sweeney
Mariners veteran recalls 1997 with Royals vs. Ripken's O's
By Jim Street / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- There is something about a player's first Opening Day in the Major Leagues. It is a day forever etched in his memory. Mariners first baseman-designated hitter Mike Sweeney remembers most aspects of his first Opening Day. "It was in Baltimore," he said prior to Monday night's regular-season opener against the Twins. "I remember that it was very exciting, very cold, and I got to share my first Opening Day with Cal Ripken Jr." The date was April 2, 1997, and Sweeney was a wide-eyed backup catcher for the Royals. He had played in 50 games for the Royals the previous season, batting .279 with four home runs and 24 RBIs. Bill Spehr started the game behind the plate that afternoon and Sweeney entered later in the game. "It was a one-run game in the ninth inning and I remember facing Jesse Orosco," he recalled. "I hit a ball down the [left-field] line that would have tied it up. But the ball curved foul and I ended up walking." The details of that at-bat were right on. But it actually happened in the seventh inning, when the Royals were trailing, 3-2. Scott Cooper was sent up to bat for Spehr, but when the Orioles made a pitching change, Sweeney batted for Cooper. Sweeney batted one more time -- in the ninth inning against Orioles closer Randy Myers -- and struck out. "I did?" Sweeney said. "I don't remember that."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.