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2015 Marlins Opening Day: Favorite memories

Before we embark on the 2015 Opening Day ceremonies, think back to your favorite Opening Day and recount those tales here at Fish Stripes!

Do you remember this Opening Day?
Do you remember this Opening Day?
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins will start their 23rd season of baseball today as they face the Atlanta Braves at Marlins Park for the first of a three-game series. The Fish have seen Opening Day multiple times, and each and every year the ceremony remains one of the most exciting times of the year. As a long-time Marlins fan, I have been through my fair share of Opening Days, but though I am a self-proclaimed major fan of the team, I rarely have strong memories attached to Opening Day. It could be that Opening Day is the first game of a long season that can have its ups and downs and be as benign and moribund as can be imagined, especially as a fan of the Marlins. Perhaps by the end of another season full of losses, it becomes difficult to recall one game from another, even though the excitement building up to Opening Day is such a frenetic feeling.

Having said that, I figured I would share my thoughts on a few Opening Days that stick out clearly in my head as a fan. They will be more recent than you might expect, but it reflects my growth in Marlins fandom from a casual fan to someone who now covers the team on a regular basis.

Opening Day, 1998

It was a difficult season, that 1998 year. However, I looked at it with excitement just like a young fan of age 11 would when you were rooting for your home team. Sure, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Jeff Conine, Moises Alou, and others were already gone. Sure, the team was decimated by Wayne Huizenga's tear-down process and first fire sale. However, there was still hope in my young heart for this team. We still had Livan Hernandez, World Series MVP! Gary Sheffield and Charles Johnson were still here! We had an exciting new set of players, including Cliff Floyd, who quickly grew on me as a player. How could our team be that bad? I remember reading magazines previewing the 1998 season and frowning at the ugly projections for my favorite team.

Then that first game came around and it was glorious. Sheffield and Johnson homered. The Marlins put up six runs against the Cubs in the first inning. The Fish won 11-6 and it was going to be the start of a successful defense, I knew it!

The Fish then lost their next 11 games, and the reality of that painful year sank in quickly.

Opening Night, 2012

This was a new era of Marlins baseball. The excitement was palpable. The legacy established in 1998, 14 years ago, would be shattered in 2012. The Fish were about to open a brand new, beautiful ballpark in the middle of Little Havana. The place was going to be jam-packed with fans eager and excited to watch the new Miami Marlins in their outrageous colors and their ridiculous Monstrosity in center field. Many more fans were psyched to watch the game on ESPN, telecast as the main Opening Night attraction! A new era indeed!

The pomp and circumstance surrounding that Opening Night was so much fun. It was more fun for me because it was my first game covered as the lead editor here at Fish Stripes. I anxiously awaited the game to start, with the ESPN hype pushing me into a fevered pitch. This was going to be a great night!

And then Jose Reyes led off, and Adam Wainwright sat him down. Wainwright then proceeded to sit down every Marlin until the seventh inning, when Reyes got the first hit in Miami Marlins history. It was that kind of night for the Fish, and the loss was emblematic of what eventually happened to the 2012 Marlins: a lot of hype, without a lot of substance.

Opening Day, 2014

The 2014 Opening Day was special for me because it was the first one I actually attended. My medical school tour happened to finally take me back to south Florida for a change, so I was able to visit Marlins Park again and enjoy a fun evening at the park. It was also the first time I got to watch Jose Fernandez live and in person. I did not have the greatest seats, as it was early in the year and the stadium was still packed with fans.

That feeling of excitement was something I would never forget. It gave me hope, even for a brief, fleeting moment, that Marlins Park might be a place that harbors fan excitement and can be rocking. If there was ever a night to have that happen, it would be with Fernandez on the mound, as the young pitcher had the Defector and his other pitches working against the Colorado Rockies. Fernandez completely dominated the Rockies, and Marlins fans all around me ate it all up.

It was surprising how many fans there were. I finally had to park far away from the stadium, and getting to the center of Marlins Park was a challenge for the first time since I had been visiting the park. I actually missed the first two innings of the game just because it was such a challenge with traffic.

It was all worth it to watch Miami crush the Rockies and the fans cheer as loudly as they did. For one night, Marlins fans bucked the trend of being bandwagoners or weak-willed or jaded. For one night, thanks to the magic of Jose Fernandez, Marlins fans were just like any other group of rabid, screaming baseball fans, and I loved being a part of it.

What are your favorite Opening Day memories? Let us know in the comments!