Young Cards relish first Opening Day
Five players make first appearances on roster for opener
ST. LOUIS -- For Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, Monday marked Opening Day No. 14 as a Cardinal. For Albert Pujols, it's nine. For some of their teammates, though, the 2009 opener against the Pirates carried a different kind of meaning.
Five players on St. Louis' Opening Day roster are making their first appearances on an active 25-man roster for a season opener. David Freese, Joe Thurston, Colby Rasmus and Jason Motte have never been on a big league team on Opening Day. Josh Kinney has been with the club, but only on the disabled list. Kinney has never been one of the 25.
"For me, it's my first real one, not having a cast on my arm," Kinney said. "So I'm excited. I'm excited to get the year started. It's different for me from other guys, because I've been around. I've seen Opening Day. I don't technically count this as my first. But it's my first one where I can play."
Motte, meanwhile, has had his eye on a St. Louis opener for a long time. Drafted in 2003, he spent nearly six years in the Minors, first as a catcher and then as a pitcher. He was called up late last season, but 2009 brings his first time seeing the Clydesdales, the convertibles, the Hall of Famers -- everything that makes a Busch Stadium opener unique.
"To be on the Opening Day roster, it's amazing," Motte said. "The fans here, Opening Day in St. Louis ... It's one of those things, Opening Day here is a big deal. I think it would be a big deal for me either way. It's one of those things you work [so long] for, to get here."
Then there's Brian Barden, who technically has been on an Opening Day roster before. But this time is a bit different. He got a two-week taste of the Majors with the Diamondbacks at the start of 2007, then found himself back in the Minors.
"I had the wrong attitude the first time," Barden said. "I wasn't playing, and I felt like I should have been playing. Even though the guy who was playing third base [Chad Tracy] had put up numbers and had proven himself in the big leagues, I didn't really understand that. I just didn't know how to go about my business as a bench player. I don't really feel like I gave myself a fair chance. This time around, I'm on the team and that was my first goal. I just want to go out there and be able to contribute and win a World Series."
Enthusiasm and hunger like that delight the manager.
"Part of having young guys on the club is not just Opening Day, but seeing them get excited about Major League everything," La Russa said. "That's why you don't like guys to act like they're too cool. You want to see the excitement. That's part of the fun that veterans have, from watching young guys really get into it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.