Bart's memorable Opening Day, first homer ‘a long time coming'

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SAN FRANCISCO -- In the third inning of his first career Opening Day start, Joey Bart scored the first run of the 2022 Giants season. In the fifth inning, Bart hit his first career homer, becoming the first Giant to get his first on Opening Day since Will Clark. Over three hours and 26 minutes, Bart caught every pitch of a wild, emotional walk-off win, the first by the Giants in their opener in 35 years. 

But none of that is what Bart will remember most about his debut as the catcher replacing Buster Posey. An hour after the 6-5 win over the Miami Marlins, Bart was still chuckling about Brandon Belt entering the field on a boat and throwing out the first pitch.

"There is nothing you can forget about that moment," Bart said, smiling. 

Over time, Bart will probably change the order of memories around a bit. Friday's opener was one to remember for the 25-year-old catcher, just about every part of it. It ended with Bart rushing to join the dogpile and get a few kidney punches in on Austin Slater, who had the winning hit, and Darin Ruf, who scored the winning run. But it started with a special moment, too. 

As Logan Webb and Bart walked in from the bullpen before the first pitch, they talked a bit about the big picture. This was a huge moment for the two, both of whom are being counted on to lead the Giants into their future. 

"It was cool, man," Bart said. "You finally get here and you finally get in front of the people and get to work and that's what's fun. All the work we put in, all the game planning we do, being able to try to dial it up and say, 'Hey man, let's do this for a while together. That'll be fun.' And that's kind of what he told me. I was like, 'Let's do it man, let's have fun.' It was a good day overall."

Both young players took advantage of the moment, although for Webb that's nothing new. The start was his fourth straight in a big game at Oracle Park, joining Game 162 last year and two National League Division Series appearances against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In those four games, Webb has allowed a 1.95 ERA and has 28 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. 

For Bart, though, this was new. His 2020 debut didn't live up to expectations on the field, and that led to plenty of good-natured ribbing. After the game, Brandon Crawford smiled and said he has "definitely given (Bart) a hard time for a while" about the wait for his first blast. 

"He looked like a real big leaguer out there today," Belt cracked. "It only took him two years to get a homer."

Bart finally got bragging rights, and the emotion poured out of him all day. He pumped his fist after big outs and windmilled his arms after scoring from first on Belt's bunt that got thrown away in the third. 

The biggest moment came in the fifth, when Bart jumped on a hanging slider from Sandy Alcantara, who sat around 97 mph with his sinker. 

"I was looking for a fastball and he threw me probably his worst pitch, and I took advantage of it," Bart said. "Against guys like that, that's basically what you can do. A guy that throws 100 mph sinkers like that, you've just got to be ready for any mistake.

"Those pitches are hard to hit and luckily I got one that I could take advantage of."

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As Bart quieted the chirping in the dugout, Abe Silvestri, the Giants' director of travel and clubhouse operations, set out on his own journey. Silvestri negotiated a trade: Bart's first home run ball for a jersey and a bat. The ball was acquired and immediately handed over to Bart's mom, who flew in for the game. It will be the first of many souvenirs for a young catcher who looks ready to take full advantage of this opportunity.

"It's been a long time coming," Bart said. "It was a good one, it's good to knock it out of the way and get the ball rolling."

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