3/31/2014 4:32 P.M. ET
Opening Day tradition thrives in Cincinnati
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Fans in Cincinnati finally got to see first-hand on Monday that Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is doing well after being struck in the face by a line drive during Spring Training. Chapman, along with pitcher Mat Latos, were featured participants in the 95th Findlay Market Opening Day parade and rode in a car along the route through Over-the-Rhine and downtown Cincinnati.
"I feel really happy and proud. You can't ask for more," Chapman said of the reception he received from fans. "Today it was real loud when I was going through the streets. They were cheering for me and giving me good wishes. I feel really happy to hear those things."
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Opening Day tradition remained strong in Cincinnati, the home of baseball's first professional team. Monday's meeting vs. the Cardinals marked the 138th Opening Day game and the 12th at Great American Ball Park.
"I've been fortunate enough to spend all of my Opening Days here," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said. "It's very special, it really is. There's the parade -- which I've never seen or been a part of -- but I hear it's great. It's truly something Cincinnati really does first class. I'm humbled and honored to be a part of it."
Outside of the stadium, the Reds Community Fund's third annual block party packed Joe Nuxhall Way and began more than five hours before first pitch.
Inside the ballpark amid sunny skies, Reds shortstop great Dave Concepcion, who was the grand marshal of the parade, and Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin joined together to throw simultaneous ceremonial first pitches.
The honorary captain was new Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, while Hall of Famer Joe Morgan was charged with the delivery of the official first game ball. Recording artist Maggie Chapman sang the national anthem.
"I think every Opening Day is memorable," Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "Obviously, you have the jet fly over, the fireworks, the parade -- it's a special day. It's a day we all look forward to, getting out of Spring Training and actually getting under the real lights and playing meaningful games. If you don't have a little bit of butterflies and a little bit of nerves and a lot of excitement, there's something wrong."
First Opening Day brings butterflies for Hamilton
CINCINNATI -- Billy Hamilton experienced his first big league games in September. But Opening Day was another experience altogether, and the Reds center fielder knew it.
After he cemented his starting job in the leadoff spot during Spring Training, Hamilton had plenty of anticipation.
"I couldn't sleep last night," Hamilton said before Monday's opener vs. the Cardinals. "I'd sleep about 30 minutes, wake up, sleep 30 more minutes and was just thinking about the game. I feel like I'm back in my high school championship game."
Hamilton batted .327 with a .381 on-base percentage while going 9-for-9 in steals to impress at the plate during camp.
"I got done what I needed to get done," Hamilton said. "I felt like I got better as a player. I've just got to change over from Spring Training to now."
Celebrating opener, Aroldis thrilled with recovery
CINCINNATI -- Still recovering from fractures above his left eye and nose from a horrifying moment when a line drive struck him in the face on March 19, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman continues to do well physically.
"I cannot feel better," Chapman said on Monday via translator Tomas Vera. "I cannot ask for better the way that I am now. I feel almost normal."
Chapman, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list, has not resumed any baseball activity yet. He is scheduled to see a doctor for a check-up on Wednesday.
"I haven't done anything," said Chapman, who was hit by a Salvador Perez liner vs. the Royals in Surprise, Ariz. "Everything has been as instructed, resting at home and doing just normal things. I'm just waiting. The doctor is going to see me, and he will tell me when it will be OK to do other activities."
Chapman, who received a large ovation from fans during the pregame introductions, could return to the mound for the Reds sometime in late April or early May if he progresses as expected after his surgery to repair his fractures, with a metal plate being inserted into his head.
Since the incident, Chapman has sported a pair of black eyes and a puffy nose, but he reported having no side effects from his injuries. On Monday, he rode with teammate Mat Latos in a car for the annual Findlay Market Opening Day Parade.
"At the moment I got hit, I felt pain. That's the last time I felt pain," Chapman said. "I haven't had any symptoms, any vision problems, nothing."
Price keeps cool in first opener as manager
CINCINNATI -- The magnitude of the occasion -- his first Opening Day at any level as a manager -- did not seem to affect Reds skipper Bryan Price before Monday's regular-season debut vs. the Cardinals.
"I think it's a situation that can be overwhelming if you allow it to be," Price said. "I'm the 61st manager to have an opportunity to have an Opening Day with the Reds. ... The most important thing is to embrace this wonderful moment -- not just in my life and my family's -- but for this particular team, this group, the ownership and the fans. We'd love for this to be a memorable Opening Day for all the right reasons and a great start to the season."
Price endured plenty for a rookie manager at Spring Training, namely having eight of his players start the regular season on the disabled list -- including closer Aroldis Chapman and starting pitcher Mat Latos.
There was no sleeplessness for Price the night before the game, almost.
"I slept well until 5:30," Price said. "I'm one of those guys -- I can sleep. I have no problem typically sleeping. But when I wake up, it's tough to go back. I really didn't think about the disabled list or the bullpen. It was, more than anything, making sure the communication between myself and the coaches and coaches to players was good -- you want to make sure from a signs perspective and communicating to the players once the game gets started.
"It's imperative we are connected that way. We feel like we're prepared."
On DL, Latos 'on schedule' in recovery
CINCINNATI -- Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos, who is beginning the 2014 season on the 15-day disabled list, threw 60 pitches over four innings on Saturday in a Minor League game in Arizona. Latos is working his way back after Feb. 14 left knee surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage and October elbow surgery that removed bone chips.
"Everything went well. There weren't any issues with the elbow or the knee," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Next up for Latos is to pitch on Thursday at Double-A Pensacola on the affiliate's Opening Day.
"Right now, he's on schedule, and we're hoping to have him back by the middle of April," Price said.
Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, who became a first-time father a couple of weeks ago when his son, Blake, was born, was asked if the experience would change him as a player before Monday's opener vs. the Cardinals.
"It changes a lot. If I don't hit 50 homers now, there's going to be a problem," said Frazier, getting laughs. "I've got that Daddy strength."