Friday Home Opener Features Special Events

Photography: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

By Greg Dillard

After months of anticipation, baseball is back at Chase Field.

In front of what will be a huge and exuberant crowd, the D-backs will face off against the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night in the 2011 home opener.

It’s going to be an exciting evening at the ballpark as the team kicks off the start of the 14th season of D-backs baseball. The festivities will begin with future Hall of Famer Roland Hemond throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.

Hemond recently received the prestigious National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. This Spring marks his 61st season in professional baseball. Hemond is a longtime front office executive who is in his fifth season as a Special Assistant to the President and CEO with the D-backs.

Prior to joining the D-backs, Hemond served as general manager of the White Sox and Orioles for 23 seasons. Over the span of his impressive career, he has been named Major League Baseball’s Executive of the Year on three occasions.

He is only the second recipient of the award. O’Neil himself was the inaugural winner in 2008.

In addition to Hemond’s pitch, Project Challenge volunteers will unveil a gigantic 60-by-30 foot American flag across the outfield. The Luke Air Force base honor guard will then present the colors.

Roger Clyne, lead singer of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, will perform a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. At the end of Clyne’s performance, four F-16’s from Luke Air Force Base will soar over Chase Field in a flyover. The four F-16s are members of the 310th Fighter Squadron “Top Hats”.

After all the pregame festivities, it will be time for baseball.

Right-hander Ian Kennedy is slated to take the mound for the D-backs. It will be his second start of the season, after he started Opening Day against the Rockies in Denver last week. It was the first Opening Day start of his career.

Friday’s game will also grant many D-backs fans their first opportunity to see several new faces.

New closer J.J. Putz is off to a stellar start in Sedona red. In two appearances, he has notched two saves while not allowing a single run, hit or walk.

Infielder Willie Bloomquist is another newcomer who is off to a strong start in 2011. While filling in for the injured Stephen Drew at shortstop, Bloomquist is batting .348 with four RBI and five stolen bases.

Those in attendance may receive their first glimpse of some other new D-backs including infielders Melvin Mora, Russell Branyan and Juan Miranda, as well as pitchers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

The baseball action is schedule to begin at 6:40 when Kennedy will toe the rubber against the reigning National League Central champions.

The fun doesn’t end when the game does, as fireworks will light up the sky above Chase Field following the game. Fans will be treated to an eight-minute fireworks show presented by Gila River Casinos.

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