An hour before Monday's Opening Day victory over the Kansas City Royals, Bo Jackson was holding court inside the White Sox clubhouse, giving the team a little pep talk.
“Guys were listening. Bo was talking,” said manager Robin Ventura.
Bo was excited. Robin was calm. No surprise there.
What about Rick Hahn?
He tried to treat his first game as the new White Sox general manager like it was any other, but when the day actually arrived, Hahn realized something. He couldn’t.
This day was totally different from anything he had ever experienced. The moves he made during the winter all led to this point. He and every other GM had a record of 0-0. Now the real thing was going to begin, and Hahn was about to sit in the chair that has been known to drive men crazy. Ask Kenny Williams.
Hahn admitted that he was nervous -- not about the team, but about himself.
“My nerves are more about making sure I can behave myself during the game and act like a grown-up even if my 10-year-old and 7-year-old are here and I don’t throw a little fit if Kansas City jumps out to a lead,” Hahn explained.
Fortunately for Hahn, the White Sox scored first on a Tyler Flowers solo homer in the fifth. It was the only run of the game.
Four years ago, when the White Sox acquired Flowers from the Atlanta Braves, one thought entered the catcher’s mind.
“I’d hate to be the guy to replace A.J. Pierzynski,” Flowers admitted.
But sure enough, there was Flowers, the first starting catcher on Opening Day not named Pierzynski since 2004, hitting the game-winning home run despite No.12's shadow following his every step.
“If every day could be like today, it’ll be fine,” Flowers said. “Hopefully, in a couple weeks or a couple months, I’ll quit getting asked all these questions about A.J. and what size shoe I wear.”
They are big shoes to fill. If you’re wondering, Flowers wears a size 13. Same as Pierzynski. Some might consider that an unlucky number. But then again, Ozzie Guillen wore it for the White Sox and won a World Series.
Yes, things can be a bit quirky on the South Side. Just look at the ace of the pitching staff, 6-foot-6 beanpole Chris Sale and the practical joke he and his wife, Brianne, played on their family hours before Sale was to make his first Opening Day start.
Brianne Sale told the family that her husband was up all night vomiting and might not be able to pitch.
“His mom freaked out, his dad freaked out, my parents freaked out,” she said. It was her idea. Chris loved it.
With everyone in hysterics, she and her husband then had an announcement to make.
“April Fools Day!”
“It was hilarious,” Brianne Sale said.
Their innocent, yet slightly twisted sense of humor kept everyone relaxed hours before Sale’s big moment. But as the game got closer, he was gradually becoming somewhat of a basket case.
“It felt like 2 o’clock came and it never got later,” Sale said about the 3:00 p.m. start. “I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs, bouncing my knees, just waiting to get out there.”
When he finally did, the team that had been his ultimate nemesis received some royal payback. Five of Sale’s 11 career losses are to Kansas City.
“Some pitchers have their hitters, and hitters have their pitchers where they think they own them,” Sale said in an interview during spring training. “Hopefully, we can change that this year, and I think we will.”
He’s off to a good start.
Sale threw 7.2 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. But he wouldn’t have gotten the victory if it wasn’t for his catcher smashing that big home run.
“That was awesome,” Sale said about Flowers. “Not only defensively was he there, but what better way to win a 1-0 ballgame than your partner in crime putting one in the seats. It was fun to watch. I was excited for him. It won the game for us.”
And for Hahn.
Before the game, I wished him a happy birthday since his career as general manager was about to give birth.
“Hopefully, we get a win for these candles,” Hahn said.
One down. Many more to go.