This week marks the 12th opening week in HRL: Twin Cities history, and once again, hope springs eternal. Throughout the league, HRLers are getting their ducks in row. Managers are distributing schedules to their teams, players are packing their trunks with bats and spikes, and new guys are giving their coolers a spring cleaning for their first round of beer duty.
Regardless of the role you have on your team, everybody is hoping for the same thing this week: a good start to the season. Success can be measured a million different ways depending on your style of play and expectations of what wiffle is to you. Some may want to throw a no-hitter, others may want to jump out to a quick lead in the homerun race, and still others may just be happy to be around the guys making memories again. Whatever the case may be for you, let’s look back and review some successes from HRL’s previous 11 Opening Weeks:
2004: The dawning of HRL’s western branch, HRL: Twin Cities, started on May 1, 2004 as getting-to-know-yous/practices/mixers in Eagan. That would continue several more times over the next three weeks until the league was divided into eight teams (A’s, Braves, Brewers, eXpos, Phillies, Twins, Royals, and Yankees), and league games began on play on May 24. There would be eight games played that week – three on May 24, and three on May 27 – with all 8 teams being involved. Notable performances that week set the tone for what would eventually become legendary careers. Truck brought years of organized wiffle experience to town and it showed as he led his Royals with a dominating pitching performance, fanning 14 while allowing only 1 run and 2 walks in a 2-1 defeat of the A’s. Nelson also laid the foundation of an enduring career by hitting 5 homeruns for the Twins in a 10-3 victory over the Phillies, becoming HRL: Twin Cities’ homerun leader after its first official week of league play in the process.
2005: 2005 saw HRL double in size, expanding to 16 teams, as well as establish a new home in the city of Hopkins along with the previous home of Eagan. The Cardinals, Cubs, Indians, Dodgers, Mets, Orioles (v1), Red Sox, Senators, and Tigers all jumped into the fray during the week of May 2, with varying degrees of success. The Tigers shutout the Senators 1-0 in a battle of expansion teams on Opening Day at Sky Hill, with Doc establishing himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the league had seen to that point (and since), striking out 12 while allowing only 1 hit and no walks in the effort. Interestingly, this game also featured the first woman to play in an HRL game, as Lee Ann, like most of her teammates, went 0-fer. On the Hopkins side, the only HRL team to be inducted into the NWLA Hall-Of-Fame, the Red Sox, launched their illustrious career by sweeping a completely overhauled A’s squad 4-1 and 12-2. The Man and Dirty Steve dominated on the mound, each allowing only 1 hit in the 2 games.
2006: Wiffle anticipation became too much to control in 2006, so the league saw it’s first April Opening Week in HRL history. The league made the move to 18 teams, and the offseason was filled with player movement and team name changes. Most notable among the offseason maneuvers was the welcoming of one of the greatest teams in HRL history… the Rockies. The who?? The Rockies… who went on to become the Reds the following season. Having earned their stripes in Wifflin’ For Wishes as Team Chotch in previous years, the Rockies launched their HRL careers with a sweep over the well-established Cardinals team with Spoon striking out 16 in his 2-1 victory. The Indians also forced their will on the Cubs with a sweep that had a combined score of 38-19. Molgs led the way at the dish with 12 RBI.
2007: The White Sox. The brash and boisterous “O’Doyles” made their debut on April 26 against the Red Sox. It did not go well. At all. They ran up against Tugboat in Game 1, and not only did he throw the first Opening Week no-hitter in HRL history, he threw the first Opening Week perfect game in HRL history, striking out 15 along the way. Two Bat did his best to keep his team in the game allowing only 3 hits and striking out 13, but it clearly wasn’t enough as the White Sox started their HRL careers with a big L and a 1-0 loss. Coincidentally, in a rare Opening Week intercity matchup, Rondell and Doc combined to throw the 2nd Opening Week no-hitter for the Tigers against the Rangers in game 2 that same evening.
2008: The weather during Opening Week in 2008 was subpar to say the least. Questions circled all weekend leading into Monday about whether or not games would actually be played, but the Wiffle Gods played nice and gate a narrow window of opportunity for some plastic baseball fun… Which is was unfortunate for the expansion Angels. This rag tag bunch of n00bs and castoffs walked into the rink that evening full of big dreams and expectations, but left with nothing more than a giant Indians boot print on their collective backsides. The Tribe delivered the biggest beatdown in the history of Opening Week to that point, defeating the Halos 22-1. Combined with their 12-1 win in Game 1, they also own the largest run differential in a single series in HRL history.
2009: This could quite possibly be one of the most controversial Opening Weeks in HRL history, although nobody knew it at the time… Well, maybe. The Harley Park rink in Hopkins runs North-South, and prior to that season, the plates were traditionally placed on the east side of the rink, with right handers on the field on the north half of the rink hitting to the west. There was a stiff wind blowing south to north on the evening of April 23, and in an interesting turn of events, the predominantly right handed hitting Braves, scheduled to play on the north half of the rink, placed the plates on the WEST side of the rinks which had they and their opponents, the White Sox, hitting to the north with the wind blowing hard to left field. They took advantage of the switch and put a 34-12 beating on the O’Doyles who graciously allowed their new rookie, Pepsi, to stay out there as the Braves hung 24 runs on him in 2 innings.
2010: For the third time in 4 years, the White Sox, once again, found themselves in the middle of an unexpected Opening Week surprise. A team full of n00bs, a mix of 6 guys that had looks that ranged from your local church’s lead tenor in the choir to the Reverend Jim Jones, named themselves the Orioles and took to the field. The White Sox, finally thinking they’d received an early scheduling break, quickly found out that they were up against one of the greatest offenses in HRL, who also happened a couple of the best pitchers the league had ever seen. Beardface and TJ lead the charge on the mound, while Aquaman contributed 4 HR’s and 10 RBI as the Orioles swept the Sox. Meanwhile, over in Eagan, 3 of the 4 games played on Opening Day were shut outs with CJ & Doc shutting out the Marlins twice, and Rocket pitching a 4 hit gem against the Pirates to earn the first of his 2 shutouts of the season.
2011: We’ve recapped a whole lot of pitching domination thus far, but nothing near what was witnessed at Sky Hill on April 25, 2011. On that evening, Palpatine and Dr. Seuss each threw no-hitters at the Marlins who likely saw the season starting in a harsh manner, but perhaps not quite THAT rough. They did put up a fight though, as both of their starters, Amon and Fukudome combined to give up only 5 hits and struck out the Reds 22 times in those 2 games, but it was clearly not enough.
2012: In a pair of games at Valley on May 7th, Sanchez went crazy on the hapless Angels… and he did so without turning the field around! In one of the best openings to a season that we’ve seen in recent memory, Sanchez walked away from Opening day with a league leading 7 homeruns and 14 RBI’s in a pair of 17-7 mercy rule wins. But it wasn’t just the run production, as he was 13-19 on the evening and even threw in a double and scored 15 runs for good measure. He hit the plate more often than Kirstie Alley at Old Country Buffet (she’s still husky, right?).
2013: Oof, the weather. Mother Nature beat down the poor HRL in the spring of 2013. Opening Week didn’t arrive until May 6, and when it did, the Colt .45’s evidently get the message because the Pilots ran through them as if they weren’t there en route to a 25-0 thrashing that stands as the largest Opening Week defeat in league history. They also completed a 10-0 mercy rule in game 1. On the west side, the Tigers v2 took the field for their record setting inaugural season. They suffered a sweep at the hands of the White Sox, and proceeded to lose their next 32 games as well before claiming a forfeit win in the last week of the season when their opponents did not arrive on time. Their 1-35 mark remains the benchmark for futility in HRL.
2014: In what would prove to be the final Opening Day for the X franchise, J-Ski teed off on the Marlins and Tax Man, hitting 5 homeruns, and driving in 8. Game 2 saw a matchup of former Red Sox castaways as TT outpitched Dr. Jesus in a spine tingling 10-5 pitchers’ duel in which J-Ski knocked two more plastic orbs over the wall.
So what will 2015 Opening Day bring us? It’s anybody’s guess, but one thing is for certain… HRL 2015 is going to be another great ride!