I spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues before participating in my first big league Opening Day last year, so it's all kind of a blur actually.
It kind of felt like making your Major League debut all over again. After all those years in the Minors, I'm still not completely used to pitching in front of a sellout crowd, much less a sellout crowd on Opening Day. The excitement that everybody brings to the ballpark, you can just feel the optimism the first day you walk into that stadium. Everybody is excited to get the season underway.
The whole 24-hour period around the game was a whirlwind. I remember getting to my apartment the night before, and it was high enough that I had a view of Miller Park. I remember tweeting out a photo and sitting on my porch thinking, "That is where I get to do to work tomorrow."
I actually slept pretty well and tried to treat the next morning like any regular day. I remember meeting with Ron Roenicke and the team in the morning to set the tone for what was about to happen. We had built a lot of optimism at the end of the previous year, and I remember being really excited about being part of that team, that family, from Day 1. That's a special feeling for every guy. The foul-line introductions were really cool and crazy. I had only been in Milwaukee for a couple of months the year before, but the amount of applause I heard was crazy. It was really cool to run out there and stand down that line, because that's something every young ballplayer sees on television when you're a kid. Now, there I was.
I was not thinking much about the big picture that day, about all my years in the Minors trying to get to that spot on the foul line. I was in the moment. Even during Spring Training, it wasn't 100 percent that I would be on the team, and it was a load off my shoulders when I made it. When I was standing on that line I thought, "This is it. It's been a lot of years, but here I am."
It easily topped my experience from the previous year. I was in a car with Donovan Hand, on our way to Nashville, Tenn., for the start of the Triple-A season, when I got a phone call that sent me down to Double-A. We were planning to stop at his home in Alabama to pick up his truck, and we were going to follow each other up to Nashville. He lives right by Huntsville, Ala., so I wound up going there, then flying to Jacksonville, Fla., to start my season. It was a little disappointing.
This year should be a lot better: a direct flight to Milwaukee. Opening Day means everybody gets a fresh start. That's what's so exciting about it. It's a taste of playoff baseball in March, because the adrenaline and energy you bring out there is unlike anything else.
Jim Henderson is a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers.