Here are the Top 11 moments from Opening Day

March 31st, 2023

Opening Day is such a national holiday, such a relief after months without baseball, that even if every game were an uneventful 6-2 matchup with no particularly noteworthy highlights, it would be wonderful and glorious: It is, after all, baseball.

Fortunately, Opening Day 2023 was much more than that, full of moments of excitement, joy and emotion ... exactly what we were waiting for. Here’s a look at the Top 11 moments of Opening Day.

1. Aaron Judge picks up right where he left off

No matter what, Judge was going to get love from New York fans in his first at-bat after signing a contract that essentially ensures he’ll be a Yankee for life. (Not to mention becoming the first American Leaguer to hit 62 homers last season.) But that he stepped up to the plate before that ovation had even started to quiet, and not only hit a homer -- but did on his first swing of the season -- was so dramatic you half expected it to hit a stadium light as Robert Redford jogged around the bases. Judge is on pace for 162 homers this year, which is obviously not going to happen. Right? Right?

2. Shohei Ohtani amazes … and is amazed by Hunter Renfroe

Ohtani ended the World Baseball Classic with a dominant inning of relief, and he went back to his customary role as a starting pitcher/DH against the A’s and … continued to dominate. Ohtani fanned 10 over six scoreless innings, touching 101 mph with his fastball, but he needed the help of a miraculous no-look catch by right fielder Renfroe in the fifth inning to keep things scoreless. Ohtani also singled and drew an intentional walk, becoming the first player to draw an intentional walk on Opening Day after starting the game as a pitcher since Brooklyn's Dutch Ruether in 1923. (Of course, as has been a frequent theme the last couple of years, the Angels could not capitalize on Ohtani’s dominance, as the A’s came back against the Angels’ bullpen to win, 2-1.)

3. Adam Wainwright sings the anthem

The retiring Cardinals veteran has become a staple of Opening Day in St. Louis, but his lingering groin injury cost him what may have ordinarily been his traditional start to make. So he went out and topped anything he could have possibly done on the mound by stepping off the intro line to sing a stirring, downright joyous version of the national anthem as his teammates (and fans) cheered him on. Wainwright’s final season promises to be a year-long party for the beloved right-hander, and it couldn’t possibly have started off in a more memorable way.

4. Game of the Day? Blue Jays outlast Cardinals in wild opener

Staying in St. Louis, the wildest game of the day was there, with a combined 19 runs and 34 hits between two of the best offenses in baseball. Nolan Arenado gave the Cards the lead in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run double, but this was going to be about whoever scored last. In this case, that was the Blue Jays, who stormed back to score two runs off closer Ryan Helsey in top the of the ninth, with one of those runs being driven in by George Springer, who had five hits and scored four runs. This game was so hectic that Cardinals rookie phenom Jordan Walker singling in his first at-bat was totally overshadowed by what came later. Thankfully, there’s an off-day Friday for all the pitchers to rest.

5. Adley Rutschman goes deep in a 5-for-5 afternoon

The phenom catcher instantly transformed the O's the minute he arrived in Baltimore last year, but he made it clear in his first plate appearance of the season that he -- and his team -- are just getting started. On a 2-0 pitch in the top of the first inning at Fenway Park, Rutschman launched a Corey Kluber sinker into the right-field seats. He kept hitting the rest of the day, helping the O's score seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings combined to give them a lead they would never relinquish in a 10-9 victory. The final line: 5-for-5 with 4 RBIs, a run scored and a walk. There is much question about whether or not Baltimore can build off its surprising, breakthrough 2023 success. The O's and Rustchman believe this is only the beginning. On Opening Day, it sure felt like they were right.

6. Ty France plays hero in Seattle

The Mariners’ rally in the bottom of the eighth began with a J.P. Crawford walk that came on a disputed check swing in which Guardians manager Terry Francona argued Crawford actually fouled the ball off. However, the play was not reviewable, and Crawford was granted first base. Seattle capitalized three batters later, when France poked an opposite field three-run home run down the right-field line to break a scoreless tie and send the T-Mobile Park crowd into a frenzy. Seattle held on for a 3-0 win.

7. Yankees fans welcome the new kid

To be as clear as possible: It’s almost impossible to describe how exciting it was for Yankees fans to see Anthony Volpe on Thursday without putting an absurd amount of pressure on him. He’s the youngest Yankees rookie to start on Opening Day since Mickey Mantle. They gave him jersey No. 11, the lowest number available -- always a sign of what the organization thinks of a player. He is, of course, widely thought to be the long-awaited heir apparent to Derek Jeter at shortstop. So: Good luck, kid!

Not surprisingly, Yankees fans welcomed him with an ovation that was almost stunning in its scope. Volpe looked perfectly comfortable afterwards, though, walking and stealing a bag his first time on the bases at Yankee Stadium. He didn’t get his first base hit, but it’s clear, when he does, Yankees fans will make him feel like they’ve been watching and cheering for him forever.

8. Oneil Cruz turns on 101 from Hunter Greene

The Pirates’ Cruz and the Reds’ Greene are central to everything each other's teams are wanting to do over the next half-decade, and we got a great preview of what that next half-decade might be like when these two ultra-talented youngsters went head to head. Cruz won this round, in an incredible way, by turning on a 101.3 mph heater from Greene in the third inning. The ball left his bat at 111 mph and traveled 425 feet. There are many, many battles ahead for these two NL Central rivals.

9. The Rangers erupt in the fourth

The Phillies -- who certainly know who they’re dealing with when they’re facing Jacob deGrom -- must have felt incredible heading into the bottom of the fourth inning. They were up, 5-0, in a game started by deGrom. They had Aaron Nola on the mound. What could possibly go wrong? Well, next thing you knew, Jonah Heim had a two-run double, Robbie Grossman had a game-tying three-run homer, the Phillies pulled Nola, and then the Rangers scored four more runs. So now you know a sure-fire strategy to win a game when deGrom gives up five runs in 3 2/3 innings: Score nine runs immediately afterward. Texas held on for an 11-7 win.

10. David Robertson gets the job done

There will certainly be a game this year, surely more than one game, in which the Mets lose because they were pitching someone other than Edwin Díaz, who is presumably out for the season after suffering a fluke knee injury celebrating a victory during the World Baseball Classic. But Opening Day was absolutely not that game, with replacement Robertson -- who, it should be noted, also is on the Top 10 list of active saves leaders -- coming in and shutting down the Marlins in order to finish off a 5-3 victory. We’re all going to miss the trumpets at Citi Field, but if the rest of the season is like Thursday, the Mets are going to be just fine.

11. Marcus Stroman makes history

It took until the top of the third inning in the third game of the first day with the new rules for the first pitch clock violation, when Stroman took just a little bit too much time to get the ball to Christian Yelich, taking him from a 1-2 pitch to a 2-2 count. Stroman clearly took the violation in stride: He went on to throw six scoreless innings and strike out eight in a 4-0 Cubs victory. (For the record, the first hitter to earn a time violation was Baltimore’s Austin Hays, and later in that game, Boston’s Rafael Devers became the first hitter to strike out on a time violation.)