Major League Baseball Season Opener: ‘It’s Definitely Going to Be Surreal’

Kris Bryant
Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs

When the first pitch of the 2017 Major League Baseball season is thrown, it marks the beginning of a strange, unfamiliar era of the game: The Chicago Cubs are the defending World Series champions. It’s still not a dream or fake news. The Cubs won the 2016 World Series in a Game 7 thriller that required extra innings to beat the Cleveland Indians 8–7 to capture their first title in 108 years.

Baseball’s regular season opens April 2, and the Cubs will have the spotlight as they take on their archrivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. “It’s definitely going to be surreal,” says Sunday Night Baseball analyst Aaron Boone. “It’s one of the great rivalries in the sport, and all the historic, consistent and even recent success of the Cardinals organization has been to beat up on the Cubs. Well, that’s obviously flipped now. The Cubs get to go in and kick off the season as the world champs in their rival’s backyard. It will be a little bit odd and interesting to see that unfold.”

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Odd as it may be, fans will have to get used to the idea of the Cubs, with star players like 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant (above) being in championship contention for the foreseeable future. “They certainly have the pieces in place where this has the chance to be a team that has some long-term success,” Boone says. “It is going to be perhaps the leading story for a number of years now, and the following that they already have is now probably going to be off the charts.”

ESPN is capitalizing on that following, airing a number of Cubs games on its early Sunday Night Baseball schedule plus the Cubs’ home opener and championship ceremony at Wrigley Field on Monday, April 10. “That should be a special scene, seeing the celebration that goes on there,” Boone says. “They had the parade and everything, but, in theory, Wrigley Field hasn’t gotten to celebrate the world championship yet, because they won it on the road. That’s something I’m looking forward to getting to cover.”

MLB Opening Day Sunday, April 21/noon c, ESPN New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays 4/3c, ESPN2
San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks 8:30/7:30c, ESPN Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals