At the time, opening day 2005 felt relatively inconsequential for the Cleveland Indians.
A 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. A two-hit effort from Cleveland’s offense. Not an ideal start to the year, but nothing impactful in the grand scheme of things.
In retrospect, Grady Sizemore’s contribution to said game feels significant when you consider how his role with Cleveland evolved from there.
On that day, he was a pinch hitter at the bottom of the batting order. Within a week, he was the starting center fielder. A month later, he was the leadoff hitter. By season’s end, he was worth more wins above replacement than anyone on Cleveland’s roster.
It’s difficult to summarize the height of the Grady Sizemore experience any better than that. In him, the Indians found their next star, a discovery which occurred in the blink of an eye.
Sizemore was a front office’s dream. A rare mix of extreme modesty and absurd talent. The kind of player who emptied the tank on every play, no matter the scenario, and did so solely through his desire to help his team any way he could.
At age 22, he was an everyday starter. At 23, he was receiving MVP votes. At 24, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.
At 29, he was gone.
Sizemore was a generational talent who almost immediately became one of the league’s best players. Sadly, what he’s often remembered for is the slew of injuries which completely robbed him of his prime years.