The Toronto Blue Jays are 22-22 in franchise history on Opening Day games that have featured plenty of memorable moments
Opening Day conjures up images of warm weather, sunny skies, and eternal optimism. For the Toronto Blue Jays, who are preparing to begin their 45th season on Thursday afternoon against the New York Yankees, that hope is shining brightly.
The Blue Jays are coming off their first postseason appearance in four seasons in 2020, behind a young core that boasts Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. They have a certifiable ace leading their pitching staff in Hyun Jin Ryu, who will take the mound at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. They added free agents George Springer and Marcus Semien in the offseason. For the blossoming Blue Jays, the promising future that awaited them has arrived.
This crop of Blue Jays has little connection with those who wore the uniform in the past; their longest-tenured player, pitcher Ryan Borucki, has only been with the club since 2018. But the Blue Jays do have a rich history in their previous 44 Opening Day games, from dramatic walk-off home runs to a reigning MVP making Major League history.
Here are the top-five Opening Day performances in franchise history.
5. Adam Lind, 2009
The Blue Jays had high hopes for two promising youngsters, Adam Lind and Travis Snider, entering the 2009 season, and for one day before a crowd of 48,000 at Rogers Centre, they lived up to that promise.
Both Lind and Snider were making their first career Opening Day starts when the Blue Jays hosted the Detroit Tigers on April 6, 2009. Two-time World Series-winning manager Cito Gaston was back in the dugout for his first full season as Blue Jays manager in 12 years after replacing John Gibbons midway through 2008. He put Lind, who had never played more than 89 games in three previous seasons in Toronto, fifth in the order behind Vernon Wells and at designated hitter. Opposing him and the Blue Jays lineup was Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
The Blue Jays got to Verlander early. In Lind’s first plate appearance, he singled to right field, driving in Alex Rios and Wells as part of a four-run outburst in the first inning. In the fourth inning, after Verlander had been lifted for relief pitcher Eddie Bonine, Lind hit a three-run home run to centre field that put the Blue Jays ahead 9-1. He added an RBI single in the eighth inning as the Blue Jays went on to win 12-5. Lind finished the game 4-5 with a franchise Opening Day-record six RBI.
Snider also homered off Verlander in the fourth inning and went 2-4. The two of them, so integral to the Blue Jays future, enjoyed every minute of it. “We were having a good time in the dugout every time one of us came in after a big hit, giving each other some love,” Snider said. “That’s how me and Lindy are, man, it’s a real good working relationship, a good friendship off the field and it should be exciting.”
In the eighth inning, the game was delayed for nine minutes and both clubs sent back to the dugout after fans started throwing baseballs onto the field. But not even that could ruin this day. Verlander was charged for eight earned runs, tying his career-high at the time, in 3.2 innings (his subsequent experience pitching at Rogers Centre has been slightly better).
Lind ended the 2009 season with 35 home runs, 114 RBI, and a .305 batting average, all career-highs. He was one of only three players that season to hit at least 35 homers, drive in at least 110 runs, and bat above .300, along with Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and the Cubs’ Derrek Lee. No Blue Jays player has matched those numbers in a season since.
The Blue Jays rewarded Lind with a four-year, $18 million contract in the offseason. He played for the Blue Jays until 2014, never hitting the heights he reached in 2009, before he was traded to Milwaukee for Marco Estrada.