Happ smashes first-pitch homer to open Major League Baseball season

Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs hits a three-run homer against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning on September 29, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois

Miami (AFP) – Chicago Cubs leadoff hitter Ian Happ smashed the opening pitch of the 2018 Major League Baseball season for a home run Thursday at Miami as pitcher Jose Urena endured a nightmare start.

Happ, playing his first major league opening day after joining the Cubs in May last year, blasted the opening offering from 26-year-old Dominican right-hander Urena into the right-field stands.

Happ, 23, smacked 24 homers and batted in 68 runs last year as a rookie for the Cubs.

Urena’s horror show only began with the homer, however, as his first opening-day start saw the Caribbean hurler surrender three runs on 57 pitches in the first inning. All nine Chicago batters came to the plate.

Urena walked Kris Bryant and hit Anthony Rizzo, saw both runners advance on a Kyle Schwarber ground out, then hit Addison Russell to load the bases. Urena then walked Jason Heyward to force in a run and hit Javier Baez in the hand to force in another before opposing pitcher Jon Lester grounded out to end the misery.

Happ became the first player to homer off the first pitch his team faced in a season since Japan’s Kazuo Matsui in 2004 for the New York Mets.

Matsui homered for the Mets off Atlanta pitcher Russ Ortiz and also homered in his first plate appearances in the 2005 and 2006 seasons as well.