One of the best compliments a manager can bestow upon a starting pitcher is naming him the Opening Day starter.
Former Padres pitcher Tim Lollar has never pitched in an All-Star game. He’s never been in the running for a CY Young Award. And has never eclipsed the 20-win plateau. However, Lollar can proudly lay claim to pitching on Opening Day of 1983.
“The designation of being the Opening Day starter is being the ace of the staff,” Lollar said. “The Opening Day starter is the person who you want starting the most in a season.”
And starting the most games in the 1983 season, Lollar did, making all of his 30 starts. Lollar finished that season with a 7-12 record and pitched to a 4.61 ERA.
He said pitching on Opening Day not only meant he earned the respect of his manager but also gained the confidence of the 24 guys in the clubhouse. Lollar said Opening Day gives every team an opportunity to succeed because every one starts fresh with a 0-0 record.
Lollar said the Opening Day atmosphere is second to none.
“If you look around the country, every stadium when they host Opening Day is sold out,” he said.
He described Opening Day like a race horse waiting for the gate to open.
Lollar said he was given the Opening Day nod by manager Dick Williams a few weeks before the 1983 season, giving him ample time to prepare and get his mind right to start the season including coming up with a game plan and scouting report for the his Opening Day opponent the San Francisco Giants.
A win on Opening Day can lead to a winning season, Lollar said, but a loss on Opening Day doesn’t really matter because in the grand scheme of things it is just one game out of 162. However, he emphasizes that every win counts.
” A win in April is just as important as a win in September,” Lollar said.
Although the Padres lost on Lollar’s Opening Day start, he said he still had fun and the experience was one to never forget.