Josh Hamilton, Angels Begin 2013 With MLB's First Interleague Opener

The matchup between the American League Angels and National League Reds is a first on opening day

By Joe Kay and Jonathan Lloyd
|  Monday, Apr 1, 2013  |  Updated 7:11 AM PDT
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Mark Trumbo #44, Mike Trout #27, Albert Pujols #5, and Josh Hamilton #32 pose during the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo Day on February 21, 2013 in Tempe, Arizona.

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Josh Hamilton will return to the site of manys firsts Monday when the Angels open the season in Cincinnati.

Hamilton, the Angels' top off-season acquisition, received a standing ovation for his pinch-hit appearance at Great American Ball Park on opening day 2007. The emotional moment completed his comeback from years of drug abuse.

He'll get another grand introduction on Monday when his new team, the Los Angeles Angels, opens against the Reds.

"I mean, that's where I started to learn how to be a professional,'' Hamilton said of Cincinnati. "That's where my wife learned how to deal with fans, media, raising kids and baseball culture.

"So there will always be a special feeling. Obviously there's a lot of memories there, just because of all my 'firsts' happened there _ my first at-bat, hit, RBI, home run, throwing somebody out."

The game also marks a first for Major League Baseball. For the first time in major league history, the season is starting with an interleague game when the American League Angels and National League Reds meet.

The interleague games usually are not played until mid-season.

"It is very strange,'' Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "This usually doesn't happen until June or July. This adds even more importance to your interleague record. I point out to my team every year that it is at least 10 percent of your schedule. It's huge. Those games could mean the difference between going to the playoffs or not.''

Temperatures in the 40s with occasional rain were predicted. Jered Weaver (20-5) makes his fourth straight opening day start for the Angels against Johnny Cueto (19-9), who is fully recovered from an injury to his side during the playoffs last season.
 
The biggest Angels signing was Hamilton for $125 million, adding to an already formidable lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout, the AL Rookie of the Year. The Angels haven't been to the playoffs for the last three years, their longest drought since Mike Scioscia took over as manager in 2000.

It would be helpful if Pujols could have a better April this time around. He opened last season with the longest home run drought of his career, going 33 games and 139 at-bats before connecting. In the offseason, he had surgery on his right knee. He hit three homers in the spring but was bothered by a sore left foot, which has had plantar fasciitis during his career.
 

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