Oh my gosh, it’s finally here!
Can you believe it? It all seemed so grim just a month ago, and now it’s here! Ohtani is back! Remember him? And Mike Trout is healthy! That’s all just for a team that went 77-85 a year ago.
Wow, Juan Soto. He’s good! Anything could happen. Atlanta could repeat a champions with Matt Olson and a soon-to-be healthy Ronald Acuña, or it could be literally any other team! The Pirates… well let’s not get carried away. The point is that Opening Day is finally, mercifully here.
With so many storylines to unfold, aces on the mound, and the unbridled enthusiasm of spring upon us, it can be intimidating figuring out how to take it all in on the first day. To that end, here is the definitive guide for your Opening Day– what, how, and when to watch, along with some festive baseball foods to keep you energized (or at least full) throughout the day.
The TV schedule was taken from the very helpful Sports Media Watch as of Monday, April 4 and is subject to change. All times listed are eastern, so adjust your schedule accordingly depending on your time zone. Lineups and starting pitchers were taken from MLB.com early in the week.
Recipes are my own or adapted, and I tried to follow a few guidelines in selecting them. First, they are ballpark favorites or ballpark-adjacent. Second, they don’t take up a lot of prep or standing over the stove/grill time so you can maximize your baseball enjoyment. Finally, I put a little bit of a spin on them so they’re a little more dressed up than what you might just order at the beer stand at a game.
Morning – Baseball Doughnuts
- One tube refrigerated biscuit dough, circles cut out from the center of each biscuit
- 3 cups vegetable/canola oil for frying
- 2 TBS each of sugar and cinnamon, mixed in a small bowl (if desired)
- Vanilla frosting and red icing (if desired)
Heat the oil in a large cast iron or heavy-bottom pot over medium-high heat. When the oil reaches about 350 degrees, drop in the biscuits one at a time, not crowding them, until they’re golden brown and cooked through on the inside, flipping over once during cooking.
Once done, remove from the pot and set on paper towels. If using cinnamon-sugar, dust the doughnuts immediately. If using the frosting, wait for them to cool and spread some vanilla frosting on each and using the red icing, create “seams” to make them look like baseballs.
12:00 p.m. – Nachos with jalapeño crema
The games don’t start until 2:20, so this is the perfect time to make a plate of nachos to kick things off. These aren’t quite your classic, melty fake cheese in a helmet nachos from the ballpark, but the jalapeño sauce kicks them up a bit. You can make the sauce the night before and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. To make it even easier, you can pre-prep your toppings as well.
- Tortilla chips
- Shredded cheese (cheddar or Mexican/taco/nacho blends)
- Fixins’ (diced tomatoes, olives, green onions)
- 2-3 jalapeños chopped, seeded for mild, seeds left in for extra spicy
- 1/2 cup Mexican crema (or regular sour cream)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 TBS olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Spread out chips on a microwave-safe plate and cover with cheese. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until cheese is melty. (You can also heat the chips in the oven with the cheese at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, but I find the microwave is easier to control the meltiness of the cheese.)
Put the jalapeños, crema, and mayo in a mixing cup that’s safe to use with an immersion blender, and blend well (you can also use a small blender if you have one). Once blended, add in the olive oil a little at a time while still blending until you have a smooth and desired consistency for a sauce for your chips. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add desired fixins’ to top your nachos, and use the jalapeño crema as a dip.
1:05 p.m. – Red Sox (Eovaldi) at Yankees (Cole), MLB Network
Unfortunately for cord-cutters, the first game of the season airs on MLB Network and you’ll have to wait a little bit longer. For those with the network though, it’s a pleasant enough way to kick off the day and get to know the players you’ll be watching most Sunday nights on ESPN. The rivalry has perhaps toned down in recent years, but these are still two contenders for the AL East and it’s never a bad time to watch Gerritt Cole pitch. The Red Sox don’t quite have the pitching to keep up with the Yankees in this one, but new Red Sock Trevor Story and returning superstars Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts are still a fun way to kick off the day. From that point, you can either stick with the game in progress or switch to…
Sorry folks! Rain has kicked the opener of the day to the same time on Friday.
2:20 p.m.- Brewers (Burnes) at Cubs (Hendricks), MLB.tv
Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes squares off against the Cubs, which should feature the debut of Seiya Suzuki. There’s rain in the forecast in Chicago at the moment, so hopefully the teams can get this one in. If not, MLB will have made a pretty big gaffe in having only one game on Opening Day before the 4 pm and later games start, and that game is only being shown on their network which many don’t have.
3:00 p.m. – Check-in at work
Leave a couple of emojis on your co-workers’ Slack posts so it seems like you’re still working.
4:00 p.m. – Mariners (Ray) at Twins (Ryan), MLB.tv
With four games on in the 4:00 pm slot, this is our first big decision of the day, and I’ll go with the game that features the most likely playoff contenders. The others (Guardians at Royals, Pirates at Cardinals, Mets at Nationals) are less likely to have playoff implications when all is said and done, and don’t feature Robbie Ray making his Mariners debut.
The Mariners and Twins might be the two teams at the top of the list if you asked me to name all the teams in baseball that could go 70-92 or 92-70 this year. The Twins’ pitching is suspect, but a (healthy) Byron Buxton and (healthy) Carlos Correa are a lineup that Spring Training dreams are made of. Watch an hour or two of the game, and then get started on dinner.
If you’re fortunate enough to live in a climate suitable for grilling, that’s your best bet with the sausage recipe below. If you can’t find stadium sauce, you can also just mix together 1/2 part ketchup with 1/4 parts each mustard and barbecue sauce.
And, if you’re officially off the clock and of legal age I recommend pairing with a light lager (pick your favorite), or if you’re feeling really good, a pale ale like Alesmith’s .394 Pale Ale (brewed in honor of and in collaboration with Tony Gwynn)! The citrus notes will go well with the light spice of the sausage and stadium sauce.
5:30 p.m. – Polish sausage with stadium sauce
- Polish sausage links (about hot dog size, or a little larger)
- Sturdy hot dog / sausage buns (look for ones that specify they’re for sausages or brats)
- ½ yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
- 2 TBS butter
- 1 C of Stadium Sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and butter the insides of your sausage buns. Toast the buns in the oven for 5-8 minutes, until just starting to toast but before they turn brown.
Grill sausages (or cook in a pan over medium heat with a bit of vegetable or canola oil) over medium heat, turning frequently until slightly charred and just about to split, until done.
Meanwhile, sauté the onions in butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the onions begin to carmelize, around 10-15 minutes. Add the stadium sauce to the pan and heat through. Top the sausages with onions and the desired amount of the sauce from the pan.
8:00 p.m. – Break
Try to fit in everything you were supposed to do from noon- 7 pm in here. You have an hour and a half before the late games start. Or, maybe one of the 4:00 games is either taking a long time or has gone into extras. Watch that instead. The dishes will still be there tomorrow, after all!
9:38 p.m. – Astros (Valdez) at Angels (Ohtani) (!) – MLB.tv
I know I criticized the lack of day games above, but what a finish to the day’s games this is. Reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani making a home start and under his new namesake rules where he can hit even after being removed as a pitcher, and against the favorites of the division. More Ohtani plate appearances are terrible for the Halos’ opponents, and also my central-timezone sleep schedule.
The other 9:30 p.m. game is Padres and Diamondbacks, which could still be a fun matchup with Yu Darvish going for San Diego and Madison Bumgarner for Arizona. The Diamondbacks likely aren’t in the difficult NL West race this season, making the Angels-Astros tilt not only the best bet here, but also the best of the day.
1:00 a.m. – End
You did it. Doughnuts, nachos, and sausages fueled you all day and now it’s time to rest. Opening Day only comes once a year, so forgive yourself for the sloth, and remember you have 161 more of these (plus playoffs!) to carry you through to November.
Baseball is back, and we all deserve it.
Photos by Dustin Bradford, David J. Griffin, Russell Lansford, & Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire; LAWJR/Pixabay; Tijana Drndarski, Luis Quintero & cottonbro/Pexels | Adapted by Drew Wheeler (@drewisokay on Twitter)
Mariners/Twins has been rained out too, alas. But Reds-Braves are on ESPN2 at 8.
It’s 9:18 and now I’m hungry. Where are the cocktail pairings?
Donuts: either a hard cider (to compliment the cinnamon sugar) or breakfast stout (Founders is a great choice)
Nachos: Mexican Style Lager. It’s still early, and you don’t want to go overboard too fast.
Polish Sausage: Dealer’s choice of your favorite German/Czech style pilsner (Pilsner Urquell), or the best local beer you can find. Something zippy to help cut through the richness like an IPA would probably be great.
Late night game wind-down: The cheapest, wateriest beer you’re willing to drink. It’s been a long day, and you gotta try to get SOMETHING done at work tomorrow after all this goofing off.
Great article Sean. Loved it!
The defending World Series Champions play at 8:08, no need to watch a 4 PM game go into extras.