After a long winter without baseball, fans can finally look forward to enjoying the National Pastime every day for the next seven months (except for a couple days off during the All-Star break).
To celebrate the start of the 2021 season, here are some fun facts to remember as you root on your favorite team or if you feel like quizzing your fellow fanatics.
OPENING DAY 2021: MLB opens season with full, 15-game slate
NEW SEASON: 21 dates to circle on the 2021 MLB schedule
STADIUMS OPEN: How MLB teams will address COVID-19 protocols with fans
The stats and information come from MLB, with research and special assistance from the Elias Sports Bureau.
International appeal: Players on the 30 MLB teams’ opening day rosters hail from more than 20 countries and territories. They range from Aruba (Xander Bogaerts) and Australia (Liam Hendriks) to South Korea (Hyun-Jin Ryu) and Venezuela (Miguel Cabrera, Ronald Acuña Jr and Gleyber Torres).
Opening day streaks: St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has made 16 consecutive opening day starts. If he’s behind the plate Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds, he’ll become only the second catcher in MLB history with as many as 17 in a row. Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez holds the record with 20.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers is scheduled to make his ninth opening day start. Among active pitchers, only Justin Verlander (12) has made more.
Other opening day stat leaders among active players:
- Home runs: Bryce Harper (5); Albert Pujols (5); Nelson Cruz (4); Khris Davis (4); Evan Longoria (4); Yadier Molina (4); Mike Moustakas (4); Giancarlo Stanton (4)
- RBI: Albert Pujols (15); Miguel Cabrera (12); Giancarlo Stanton (12); Evan Longoria (10); Yadier Molina (10); Joc Pederson (10); Nelson Cruz (9); Jake Lamb (9)
- Wins: Clayton Kershaw (5); Justin Verlander (5); Dallas Keuchel (3); David Price (3); Chris Sale (3)
Welcome back: Several notable players who chose to opt out of all or part of the 2020 season are set to return to action. Among them:
- 2012 NL Most Valuable Player and six-time All-Star Buster Posey of the Giants
- 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner and five-time All-Star David Price of the Dodgers
- Two-time All-Star Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals
- Two-time All-Star Lorenzo Cain of the Brewers
- 2019 All-Star Marcus Stroman of the Mets
- Plus pitchers Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals, Michael Kopech of the White Sox, Collin McHugh of the Rays and Joe Ross of the Nationals.
Legendary numbers for Pujols: Angels first baseman Albert Pujols continues to climb baseball’s all-time hitting lists as he is set to begin his 21st MLB season.
Pujols ranks 16th all-time in games played with 2,862. With a full season, Pujols has the potential to move up to eighth place, passing the likes of Brooks Robinson (2,896), Adrián Beltré (2,933), Rusty Staub (2,951), Omar Vizquel (2,968), Dave Winfield (2,973), Barry Bonds (2,986), Willie Mays (2,992) and Cal Ripken Jr. (3,001).
Pujols ranks fifth all-time with 662 career homers, just 38 shy of becoming the fourth player ever to reach 700. You can probably guess the other three.* If Pujols hits 34 home runs this season, he’ll tie Alex Rodriguez for fourth place.
Miggy’s milestones: Two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is within striking distance of two important numbers in his career totals.
The Tigers first baseman is 13 homers away from joining the 500 club. Only 29 players in history have hit that many home runs in their careers.
Cabrera is also just 134 hits away from reaching 3,000 career hits and becoming just the 33rd player in Major League history to accomplish the feat.
Max approaches 3K: Nationals starter Max Scherzer is 216 strikeouts away from becoming the 19th pitcher in history to reach 3,000 for his career.
Baseball buffet: Assuming no postponements, every major league team will play its opening game on the same day for the first time since 1968. MLB Network will kick off 17 consecutive hours of coverage at 9 a.m. ET with the season debut of “Intentional Talk” and conclude it with a 12-hour edition of “MLB Tonight,” running until 1 a.m. ET.
*- MLB’s all-time home run leaders are: Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714).
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.