Vincent Velasquez labeled spring training as a "grind," causing the Quad Cities River Bandits starting pitcher to constantly look ahead.
All he could think about was the season opener.
"I wanted to get out of spring training so fast," Velasquez said. "I'm getting ready for a good season."
Nearly six weeks after most of the roster reported to spring training, the Bandits can trade early mornings and workouts now for an actual game. QC opens its run as a Houston Astros affiliate tonight at Kane County.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.
"It's a big adrenaline rush," said Velasquez, tonight's starter. "But that's when you've got to keep your composure and not do anything different -- just go out there and be yourself."
It could be difficult getting caught up in the pageantry that defines opening day. Tonight could get especially interesting at Kane County considering that club is starting its first season as a Chicago Cubs affiliate.
However, those taking the field show guarded excitement with a focused tone.
Real games mean the opportunity to compete for bigger opportunities.
"You've got to push yourself to another level and compete," Velasquez said.
Since spring training started, that mentality has been there.
"You always have an eye on the season," Bandits starting third baseman Rio Ruiz said. "But as long as you take your at-bats seriously in spring training, you're not going to have any worries in the season."
With spring training now history, there should be no worries.
"It's always exciting getting that first game in," Bandits designated hitter Chase Davidson said. "Hopefully, it's a good start."
From the Bandits' perspective, the start is important. Seventeen players are appearing on a full-season club for the first time in their careers.
With that comes more butterflies. And bigger crowds
"It's a pro-ball atmosphere," Ruiz said. "I was in the (rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year) and we didn't have fans at all. Now that I'm in a full season, I get to feel the real presence of the crowd."
Move over, spring training. It's time for the real fun.
"It's going to be awesome to play in a real game," Davidson said.
That first pitch is almost here.
"It's going to be great," Ruiz said. "I can't wait."
Today is Saturday, Aug. 30, the 242nd day of 2014. There are 123 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: A large pair of elk, captured in Iowa, were exhibited in Market Square today. 1889 — 125 years ago: The Rock Island Arsenal dam was being constructed under the supervision of Charles Frances, of Lowell, Mass. 1914 — 100 years ago: Mrs. Frank Mixer, of Rock Island, was the winner of the final preliminary for the women's handicap golf cup at Rock Island arsenal links. 1939 — 75 years ago: Sixteen hundred persons — many from war-fearful Europe — arrived in New York aboard the German liner Bremen. For two days on the trip, passengers were cut off from the world with both incoming and outgoing radio messages banned. 1964 — 50 years ago: Police reported five youths have been involved in the theft of about seven cars in recent weeks. Three of the youths were arrested Saturday afternoon, one was in custody as the result of a previous arrest, and the fifth is expected to be arrested today. 1989 — 25 years ago: The Rock Island/Milan School Board is asking the city to tear down Franklin School and allow the school district to pay back the estimated $100,00 cost during 10 years.