As Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera plays final Opening Day, Riley Greene basks in first

Detroit News

Miguel Cabrera was the star of the day Thursday at Comerica Park, where he was treated to several rousing ovations.

Detroit — For Miguel Cabrera, it was his final Opening Day.

For Riley Greene, it was his first — and one, despite a 6-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday at a jam-packed Comerica Park, that he’ll never forget.

Greene was supposed to be here for Opening Day 2022, but he suffered a foot fracture in the waning days of spring training, and he didn’t make it to Detroit until mid-June.

“I was super excited,” Greene said. “I heard a lot of things from some of the guys, like, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be packed.’ It made me super excited and I was looking forward to it a lot. The fans showed up. We couldn’t get the win. They’ll show up on Saturday, and we’ll play hard.

“The atmosphere was great. I think it was sold out, right? (Editor’s note: Right.) That just shows the city of Detroit, and the fans, they’re always all-in. It’s awesome as a player to know that.

“It gives us a lot of adrenaline, a lot of energy. We feed off that.”

Greene, 22, was the fifth overall pick by the Tigers in 2019, and is now the Tigers’ starting center fielder — potentially, the Tigers’ next superstar, as their last superstar, Cabrera, prepares to say goodbye.

Cabrera, who turns 40 this month, is in the final season of his Hall-of-Fame career, and the Tigers are using 2023 as a season-long celebration for arguably the greatest talent in franchise history.

Cabrera, who in 2021 became a member of the 500-homer club, and then in 2022 became a member of the 3,000-hit club, was cheered wildly during pregame introductions Thursday. Then, just before the start, he was waved onto the field by fellow Detroit sports legends Ben Wallace, Nicklas Lidstrom and Calvin Johnson to participate in the ceremonial first pitches.

It was a neat moment, but one Greene missed.

“I was actually going to the bathroom when they were out. I didn’t realize (it was happening),” Greene said.

“I’m sure I’ll see a video of it.”

And, surely, Greene will see many more Cabrera celebrations, during this 2023 farewell tour.

“I grew up watching him,” Greene, a Florida native, said of Cabrera, who then was playing for the Marlins. “I think he debuted probably when I was 1 year old (2, actually). So it’s pretty cool to be in the same clubhouse as him.”

Now that Greene has experienced his first Opening Day in Detroit, he now gets to experience his first day off after Opening Day in Detroit — the traditional space set aside on the calendar, should the scheduled opener be rained out. He said he’ll spend Friday’s off-day grocery shopping.

Cheers for Cabrera

It’s always interesting, on Opening Day, to see who gets the biggest cheers during pregame introductions. This year, there was no question who the undisputed champ would be. It was Cabrera, with the ovation, you could barely make out the P.A. announcer introducing him.

Several members of the Red Sox, lined up on the opposite base line, were applauding during Cabrera’s introduction.

Cabrera also received a standing ovation before his first at-bat, with plate umpire Edwin Moscoso stepping to the side and allowing the Tigers’ legend to soak it all in before resuming play.

“He’s been great for this city,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

In his second at-bat, Cabrera had a two-out RBI single. He’s had hits in six straight Tigers’ home openers.

After Cabrera’s pregame introduction, by these ears, the road order went: Torkelson, Greene, Dearborn native Eric Haase, Javy Báez, returning Tiger Matthew Boyd, Austin Meadows and Spencer Turnbull.

The most boos, easily, went to Red Sox starter Chris Sale, an old rival from his Chicago White Sox days.

Ann Arbor’s Laith Al-Saadi, an alum of “The Voice,” performed a booming rendition of the national anthem, but it’s notable there was no pitch clock on him. The military flyover arrived over Comerica Park several seconds before he finished his performance.

Honoring Green

A lot of people showed up Thursday. The announced attendance was a sellout: 44,650. And if you wandered near a hot-dog line in the Comerica Park concourse, that number seemed more light than inflated.

The Tigers, though, made sure to remember one man who was notably absent Thursday.

The Tigers reserved a seat in the second row of the press box for legendary Detroit News sportswriter Jerry Green, who famously covered the first 56 Super Bowls, but also covered a lot of Tigers games over the years, and was in the press box as recently as the 2022 season, keeping score as always. Green died last month at the age of 94. The Tigers kept his seat with a bouquet of flowers.

The Tigers also held a moment of silence for Green, before the start of the pregame ceremonies.

Around the horn

∎Among the notable changes at Comerica Park: the installation of pitch clocks. There’s one in center field, just under a white truck on the Chevrolet fountain, and another one behind home plate.

The first pitch-clock violation in Comerica Park history occurred at 2:21, with Sale pitching to Haase.

The game took 2 hours, 32 minutes, and that’s only because it dragged a bit at the end.

∎Jake Rogers’ line-drive homer in the second inning led to the largest Comerica Park roar of 2023, and gave several young Tigers a taste of what the ballpark atmosphere can be when this team finally turns things arouhnd.

“The fans here are great,” Greene said. “When they show up, the adrenaline’s rolling, the energy’s super high.”

∎Of course, Tigers fans also are realistic, and aren’t expecting much of this team, this season. The Tigers would love to prove them all wrong, much like the 2006 Tigers did.

“I don’t really care what people are saying on Twitter,” Haase said. “We can take care of business here.”

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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