2023 Fans' Guide to MiLB Opening Day
Let’s spread out the fun. Let’s have multiple Opening Days. That is just what’s happening in the Minor Leagues over the next two weeks. While Major League Opening Day arrives for all clubs Thursday, the Minors’ editions will come on three separate days: March 31 for Triple-A; April 6 for
Let’s spread out the fun. Let’s have multiple Opening Days.
That is just what’s happening in the Minor Leagues over the next two weeks. While Major League Opening Day arrives for all clubs Thursday, the Minors’ editions will come on three separate days: March 31 for Triple-A; April 6 for most Double-A, High-A and Single-A clubs and April 7 for the rest of them.
Before first pitches arrive from coast to coast, let’s get you prepared for the 2023 season. First, dive into the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings to find out who are baseball’s top young talents fighting their way toward the Majors. You can also dig into the MiLB.com Prospect Primers to discover the futures of each Major League division.
Then, subscribe to and download recent episodes of The Show Before the Show, the official podcast of Minor League Baseball, to get you even more pumped. Maybe even listen on your drive to the diamond. Benjamin Hill, one of the podcast’s co-hosts, covers the business and culture of Minor League Baseball. Subscribe to his Ben’s Biz Beat newsletter to learn about what’s taking place at ballparks all over the country.
Speaking of which, are you looking to plan a Minor League road trip this spring or summer? Be sure to read up on our Minor League Ballpark Guides, covering every aspect of the stadium experience across the Minors. (This project, nearly two years in the making, will officially launch on April 6 with an interactive landing page allowing fans to plan Minor League road trips by region, level, affiliation and more. Stay tuned.)
Do you want to know why we as a staff are excited for the springtime return of Minor League Baseball? We counted the ways. We encourage you to tell us your own on the @MiLB social media channels. You also may want to express that through Minor League merch, and the MiLB Store has everything you need, from Copa gear to jerseys to on-field caps and more.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you can see all of the Minor League action this year from the comfort of your own home or wherever life takes you in 2023. Good news: MiLB.TV is now part of the MLB At Bat subscription, so At Bat will also bring you 7,000-plus games this year from all four full-season levels. More on what’s new here.
So that’s your pregame reading, writing, watching and listening taken care of. Now onto what you should pay attention to following the utterance of those two glorious words: Play ball!
Thursday, April 6
New Hampshire @ Altoona/Binghamton @ Portland, 6 p.m. ET: It’ll be an Eastern League race to see who can get the first non-Triple-A pitch of the 2023 season delivered on Thursday. Henry Davis, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick and No. 3 Pirates prospect, could catch that pitch should he start behind the plate for Altoona as expected. On the Portland side, watch out for crazy catches by Red Sox prospect Ceddanne Rafaela, who made a habit of providing highlight-worthy plays last year.
Dayton @ Lake County, 6:35 p.m. ET: The Lake County Captains, a Cleveland affiliate conveniently located in a suburb thereof, have entered a new era. The team was purchased in the offseason by a group led by Alan Miller, who also owns the summer-collegiate Portland Pickles. That team’s anything-goes spirit will be on display tonight, including but not limited to unique opening series “Dragons vs. Captains” artwork, the debut of bold new food items (the reimagined Moby Dick sandwich contains 24 sardines, and that’s not even the half of it), and perhaps the hatching of a giant egg that’s been growing on the concourse.
Bowling Green @ Asheville, 6:35 p.m. ET: April 6 is a Thursday, and in Minor League Baseball that often means it’s “Thirsty Thursday” featuring discounted beer. The Asheville Tourists originated the term Thirsty Thursday -- seriously, they own the trademark -- so it’s only fitting they’re starting the season in such a time-honored alliterative fashion. Asheville is a great town for local brews too, and many can be found at the Tourists’ iconic home of McCormick Field (now 99 years old).
Dunedin @ Fort Myers, 7 p.m. ET: On Sept. 28, Fort Myers -- and southwest Florida in general -- was battered by Hurricane Ian. The Mighty Mussels’ home of Hammond Stadium, which also serves as the Twins’ Spring Training home, was utilized as a staging area for first responders. So the Mighty Mussels rightfully decided to open their season with a tribute to these first responders, as their selfless and dangerous work was so important to the community.
Delmarva @ Salem, 7:05 p.m. ET: Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Jackson Holliday spent plenty of time in Major League camp this spring and impressed Orioles brass along the way with his advanced tools at just 19 years old. His regular-season debut is expected to come this night in the Carolina League. He won’t be alone in terms of big names either. No. 93 overall prospect Miguel Bleis -- a potential five-tool outfielder who turned 19 on March 1 -- is also expected to start for Red Sox affiliate Salem.
Wilmington @ Aberdeen, 7:05 p.m. ET: Nationals fans will take a keener interest in their Minor League system this year, so you can bet a lot of eyes will be on James Wood. While rosters aren’t out yet, MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 overall prospect is expected to open at High-A with Wilmington, but with his impressive approach, speed and power at 6-foot-6, he might not be long for the South Atlantic League.
Hillsboro @ Tri-City, 9:30 p.m. ET: Ronnie Gajownik will make history from the Hops dugout when she becomes the first woman to manage at High-A or above in this Northwest League contest. Gajownik spoke to the MiLB podcast in January about the role and also circled back with Kelsie Heneghan from Spring Training to speak on the journey to this point (see above).
Friday, April 7
Clearwater @ Bradenton, 6:30 p.m. ET: In 1923, a new ballpark opened in Bradenton, Florida. It was a modest structure, like most parks of its era, costing $2,000 to build and boasting a capacity of 2,000. One hundred years -- and many renovations and additions later -- that ballpark is still going strong. Now known as LECOM Park, it serves as the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates and then hosts their Florida State League affiliate, the Marauders, during the regular season. It’ll be a 100th birthday party of sorts that lasts all season long.
Reading @ Richmond, 6:35 p.m. ET: The Richmond Flying Squirrels are slated to move to a new ballpark in 2025, meaning fans still have two seasons to enjoy the ‘80s throwback charm of the gargantuan concrete bowl that is The Diamond. The team has sold out Opening Day for the 13th consecutive year, and this year’s festivities have an added bonus. Robert Wuhl, who played pitching coach Larry Hocket in "Bull Durham," will throw out the first pitch and then sign autographs on the concourse.
Spokane @ Vancouver, 10:05 p.m. ET: This will be the last season debut shown on MiLB.TV. But hey, you don’t need another reason to watch more baseball. After this, no more Opening Days. Now we’re off and running for good.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com and MLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SamDykstraMiLB.