CHICAGO -- While the pomp and circumstance surrounding Opening Day always makes for a unique occasion, Friday's season opener against the Cubs held a bit of added significance for a number of players on the Pirates' 25-man roster.
A total of eight Pirates are in the Majors on Opening Day for the first time in their careers. That group includes Pedro Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Josh Rodriguez, Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, Michael Crotta, James McDonald and Garrett Olson. Neither Crotta, nor Rodriguez, had ever been on a Major League roster before.
"I'm excited," said Tabata, before reaching base twice in the Pirates' 6-3 win over Chicago. "It's something that for every baseball player is very important -- that you know that Opening Day you will be with the team. You have been waiting all your life to play on Opening Day."
Added Pearce: "I have been fighting for this spot since '08. Three years later, it's going to mean the world to me. It's everything I wanted."
Alvarez, Walker and Tabata -- all three of whom solidified themselves as starters last season -- were in manager Clint Hurdle's starting lineup. None of the three had a bigger day than Walker, whose fifth-inning grand slam turned a two-run deficit into a two-run lead for the club.
Alvarez finished 0-for-4 and committed a costly throwing error. Tabata went 1-for-4 with a walk. Neither Pearce, nor Rodriguez, were called in to pinch-hit. Olson allowed a hit and struck out one in one-third of an inning out of the 'pen.
"Obviously, it's special," Alvarez said. "But it's also just another day for playing baseball. Every day that comes by, you live in the present. But definitely it's exciting to start the year with the ballclub."
With so many Opening Day first-timers, it's no wonder that the Pirates have one of their youngest rosters in recent years. The average age of the club is 27.6. Since 2001, Pittsburgh has opened the season with a lower average age only twice. That was in 2007 (27.1) and 2009 (27.4).