CINCINNATI — Cincinnati fans had reason to cry Saturday after the Reds lost 11-6 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Elizabeth India’s tears, though, were of joy after her son and Reds second baseman Jonathan India handed her the baseball from his first big league hit.
“They’ll hold on to that,” India said of the ball he gave Elizabeth and her husband John. “I dedicated that to them, especially with all the sacrifices they’ve done for me in their lives with baseball throughout the years.”
India, 24 and the youngest player on the roster, was the first Reds rookie position player to start on Opening Day since third baseman Chris Sabo in 1988. The former University of Florida star’s debut was Sabo worthy, as he didn’t allow a first-at-bat strikeout to bother him. Indian followed with a double to left, a single to left and flyout to right for a 2-for-4 performance that left him smiling and his mom crying.
“It was just a beautiful thing, something I’ll never forget,” India said. “I’ll always cherish it, always carry it with me throughout my career.”
India also played well in the field, throwing out Cardinals leadoff man Tommy Edman on a ground ball leading off the game, then handling five other chances, including a double play ball, flawlessly.
The Reds’ first pick, fifth overall, in the 2018 MLB Draft said he felt he belonged after hitting .313 with three home runs, a .441 on base percentage and .604 slugging percentage in spring training. The first rookie second baseman to start for Cincinnati on Opening Day since 1963, he said he felt comfortable at Great American Ballpark, where about 7,000 fans applauded his effort.
India said his teammates told him to enjoy the Cincinnati atmosphere, where Opening Day is akin to a holiday. Businesses close and kids skip school to watch their beloved Reds.
“I was waiting for the nerves to kick in, but the funny thing was, I wasn’t nervous,” India said. “I felt comfortable with the guys. I think it all started in spring training. They made me feel very comfortable out there. They made me feel like I’d been there before.”