I went into that spring really not sure what was going to happen. I had been called up in 2004 for 20 days, and I was up for 50 days in '05, so I just went in hoping to play without putting any pressure on myself. I wasn't thinking, "I've got to beat this guy for a job," or "I've got to show the coaching staff this or that." I was just trying to get ready to play. Andy Van Slyke, the outfield coach for the Tigers, grabbed me early on in spring and told me to push myself defensively all the time, which I started doing right away. As the spring continued, I played pretty well and was selected to make the team to start that year.
Next thing I knew, it was Opening Day, and I'll always remember looking down the line, wondering why a lot of guys were wearing sunglasses. It was sunny, but not to the point that you needed glasses. Then I realized why -- I could see guys sniffling and tearing up, because it was the first time they had made a big league team as well. I didn't tear up, but the emotion did get to me. It was like, "This is it, this is the big leagues." I was still in that mind-set until the stealth bomber flew over. Then all of the sudden, it set in that this was actually the start of the season, I was on the team and I was leading off. I had to get ready to play.
I'm more established now, but I always look forward to that day, to the sold-out crowd. I even look forward to going to other ballparks for Opening Days, and we've got one of them this year in Atlanta. You know it's going to be full and energetic. There are going to be some big names who come out, whether it's celebrities or former players. You always have the flag presentation, all those things that are fun to be a part of. I remember going to Boston one Opening Day, and they brought all of the Boston-area teams out because they had all recently won -- the Celtics and the Patriots, the Bruins and the Red Sox. That was neat to see all the guys out there on the field. I got to see Bill Russell, which was really cool. Even as an opponent, all those moments are great.
You don't get a chance to do that kind of stuff much over the course of the season. Very rarely are all eyes and attention on one specific day, so I always remember them.
My first Opening Day with Detroit was obviously special. So was my first one with the Yankees, and I think this year will be similar. My first Opening Day with all three teams has come at home, which I think adds to the emotion. Your parents are in town. Your friends are in town. The city's buzzing, and everyone's looking forward to what the team will be able to do.
Curtis Granderson is an outfielder for the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @cgrand3. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.