Tucson Padres manager Terry Kennedy's first experience with opening day in the majors was in 1981 as a member of the San Diego Padres. Thirty-one years later, the 55-year-old remembers every detail.
"It's what you work for as a ballplayer," Kennedy said. "You never forget it. You go through the pregame ceremonies, the introductions, and then we used to say that when that first pitch is thrown, the bell is going to ring.
"The bell rings, and then it's officially time for the regular season."
The bell rang for Kennedy's Tucson squad Thursday night at Kino Stadium in front of 5,681 fans. The Padres hosted the Fresno Grizzlies, losing 3-0 in game No. 1 of 144.
The decision wasn't the important part about Thursday though. The important part is that the 2012 campaign is officially under way, and a new season is here.
"Spring training is fun for a few weeks, but then you're ready for the bright lights of the regular season and for things to start mattering," Tucson pitcher Casey Kelly said.
The Star chatted with a few members of the Padres and got their favorite opening day memories.
Most memorable opening day: The manager will never forget opening day 1983. Batting fourth and catching for San Diego, Kennedy went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and two walks in a 16-13 win over Frank Robinson's San Francisco Giants. He helped chase future All-Star Mike Krukow after just 1 1/3 innings.
His favorite part of opening day: Kennedy said he appreciates the grind it takes to get to opening day. There's no better feeling, the manager said, than making the opening day roster of a big-league club.
In his own words: "Everybody wants to look good on opening day, but the truth is no one really remembers halfway through the year. I will tell you the extra stuff that goes with opening day is not overrated. It means something special to the players."
James Darnell, third base/left field
Most memorable opening day: Darnell will never forget April 16, 2009. A member of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps, Darnell launched the first home run in the history of Parkview Field before a capacity crowd of 8,100 in the stadium's first game.
His favorite part of opening day: Growing up as a huge baseball fan, Darnell knew the baseball season had arrived when he heard the former ESPN announcing team of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on the air for the season's first game.
In his own words: "When I was younger, an old baseball buddy of mine told me to play every game like it's opening day. You approach opening day with a little more excitement than the rest of the games and have a little extra in your step. The key is to try to play like that all year."
Matt Palmer, starting pitcher
Most memorable opening day: In front of 43,504 people at Angel Stadium in 2010, Palmer was a part of his first big-league opening day. Although he didn't pitch, Palmer said he will never forget participating in the pregame introductions.
His favorite part of opening day: A people's person, Palmer enjoys walking into the clubhouse for the first time in a season and meeting new teammates and seeing old faces leading up to the first game.
In his own words: "You see it on TV, all the guys getting introduced, standing on the line, all the fans into it, but you don't realize how big it is until you get out there and see it in person."
• What: Fresno at Padres
• Where: Kino Stadium
• When: 7:05 p.m.
• Radio: 1600-AM