The greatest Opening Day in Miami Marlins history

With another Miami Marlins season about to begin, what better time to look back on the greatest Opening Day in franchise history?

And just like that, the Miami Marlins are about to take the field for Opening Day No. 30.

It usually hasn’t gone well for the Fish. They are 12-17 all time on the season’s first day, and have just one Opening Day win since 2014. Even without a victory this Friday, this is already a somewhat unique opener for the organization, as it will be only the ninth time Miami has started a season on the road. I guess some teams just haven’t been in a rush to get back north.

However, this article is about one of times it did go well. In fact, with all due respect to the 1993 squad that won game No. 1, I’m prepared to say that this is going to be about the greatest Opening Day in Miami Marlins franchise history.

For your consideration, I give you the gem provided by the 2004 contest between the Marlins and the Montreal Expos.

For starters, Miami won, besting their division rival 4-3. Miami hadn’t started 1-0 since 2000, so it made for a nice change. More importantly though, the year was 2004, meaning these were the defending world champions we were talking about. What’s more, a defending world champion that was actually expected to have a chance to defend. This was Miami’s second title defense, after all, but that 1998 team had been gutted heading into the season, with even more gutting still to come. When the 1998 team won its opener, it was a cute, almost annoying novelty. By contrast, the 2004 team winning its opener was an exciting tone-setter.

Especially since it wasn’t like the 2004 team didn’t have some notable player absences themselves. The bulk of the team was retained, but you can make a pretty good case two of their three best hitters were the ones who weren’t retained. The Marlins couldn’t afford to keep a pair of Gold Glovers in Ivan Rodriguez and Derrek Lee, making do instead with Hee-Seop Choi at first and a tandem of Ramon Castro and Mike Redmond at catcher.

As mentioned, Miami won 4-3. All four runs were knocked in by  either Choi or Redmond.  

So for a day, and indeed much of April in the case of Choi, the irreplaceable actually looked kinda replaceable. There have been plenty of openers where Miami Marlins fans have come into a season questioning the front office … and having even more questions at the end of Game 1 of 162. You’d be hard pressed to name a Marlins opener where more was done to silence some of the doubters than this one.

Lastly, and most importantly though, was the pitching matchup. Reigning World Series MVP Josh Beckett … against 1997 World Series MVP Livan Hernandez.

Honestly, it was an occurrence rare and awesome enough that the box score could almost have been thrown out. Except that both pitchers were actually kind of awesome that game. Both turned in quality starts. Beckett struck out nine, while Hernandez struck out eight. They were dominant. The pair only allowed three runs between them, with the bulk of the scoring coming in dramatic fashion late against the bullpens.

The two newest members of Miami’s revamped bullpen stepped in to secure the victory — just one more example of the new-look roster making the front office look good and making fans feel excited about what would be possible in 2004.

For at least this Miami Marlins fan, I can’t recall an Opening Day I was riding higher.

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