Andy Lopez's first opening day as a coach is still the one he remembers most.
"I was 22 years old, and I was saying, 'Boy, what in God's name am I doing?'" said Lopez, recalling his days at Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Mira Costa High School. "My senior pitcher was 18, and I was 22. I had to grow a mustache to look older.
"That first one I really remember. All the others kind of blend in."
That could change tonight.
The defending national champion Arizona Wildcats open the 2013 season tonight at 6.
Between a pregame national championship celebration complete with rally towels and appearances from three of the stars of last year's team - Kurt Heyer, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard - Hi Corbett Field should be buzzing come first pitch.
"I'm sure it's going to be incredible," junior center fielder Johnny Field said. "Honoring the national championship club, bringing back the old guys … it's going to be special. You can't put into words how excited I am."
After all the pageantry, the UA will have a game to play and a season to navigate.
Here's a closer look at the new-look Wildcats.
Locked in: 2B Trent Gilbert; SS Kevin Newman; 3B Brandon Dixon
Up for grabs: First base. Freshman Ryan Koziol and junior college transfer Sam Parris are battling for the starting job.
Watch: Third base. Dixon moves across the diamond from first to third and will hit fifth in the batting order. He started 38 games and batted .245 with one home run and 14 RBIs.
Quotable: "Kevin Newman brings solid defense even though he's a freshman. People remember Alex Mejia batting third and hitting .340, but Coach Lopez remembers Alex Mejia batting eighth and hitting .160. So Kevin Newman will probably bat eighth and hit .200. No, hopefully he hits a little better than that." - Lopez
Locked in: CF Johnny Field, RF Joe Maggi
Up for grabs: Left field. Freshman Scott Kingery will be in the lineup and play somewhere. The Phoenix native will either play left field or DH and bat leadoff. Sophomore Tyler Parmenter and freshman Cody Ramer will battle for left field if Kingery is at DH.
Watch: Center field. Field has a new spot in the outfield, shifting from left to center. He'll bat third and look to roam center as well as Rickard did last year.
Quotable: "I'm just going to try to play the same way. There's more of a leadership role, and I'll try to get some of those younger guys in line. But, Coach Lopez has talked a lot about not doing too much as a junior." - Field
Starters: RHP Konner Wade; RHP James Farris; RHP Stephen Manthei.
Bullpen: RHP Mat Troupe; LHP Tyler Crawford; RHP Nick Cunningham; RHP Tyger Talley; RHP Nathan Bannister.
Watch: Manthei. He is the Sunday starter for now, but that's the most unsettled of the three starting weekend spots. Lopez said if Manthei struggles early, he would move back to the bullpen and Crawford could get a crack in the rotation.
Quotable: "Go get us seven innings, so we don't have to wear down the bullpen on Friday nights. If he gets to the seventh inning, and we're down a run, I'll give him a big kiss on the neck." - Lopez, on what he wants from Wade this season
projected starting lineup
1. Scott Kingery, Fr., DH/LF
2. Joe Maggi, So., RF
3. Johnny Field, Jr., CF
4. Riley Moore, So., C
5. Brandon Dixon, Jr., 3B
6. Trent Gilbert, So., 2B
7. Ryan Koziol, Fr., 1B
8. Kevin Newman, Fr., SS
9. Cody Ramer, Fr., DH/LF
P: Konner Wade, Jr.
• Who: Coppin State at Arizona
• When: 6 p.m.
• Where: Hi Corbett Field
• Radio: 1290-AM
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at email@example.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.