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Royals veterans, rookies alike excited

Royals veterans, rookies alike excited

DETROIT -- Mark Grudzielanek will be experiencing his 14th Opening Day and Matt Tupman his first. Old stuff or new, it's a time for a player to feel excited.

"Who doesn't?" Grudzielanek asked Sunday. "I think it's great for everybody. It's an awesome feeling. Everybody gets excited. If you don't get excited about Opening Day, then there's something wrong with you. I don't care how long you've been in this game."

Grudzielanek was with the Montreal Expos when he experienced his first Opening Day in 1995. He'll be at second base for the Royals on Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

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Tupman not only gets his first exposure to Opening Day, but it's his first time on a 25-man Major League roster.

"It's not only my first Opening Day, it's my first day. I'm excited, my family's excited and it's what I've worked for my whole life. I've given up a lot and I don't know what my career is going to entail, but you've got to have a first day sometime," Tupman said.

Actually he's on a 24-man roster, because the guy he's replacing, catcher Miguel Olivo, is starting the season with a four-game suspension. Because of that, the Royals are one player short and they also needed a backup catcher for John Buck.

So Tupman probably will be around for only four games. But his wife, Addie, and his mother, Lisa, will be in Detroit for this event.

"That's the fan club. I've got a small following -- small but supportive," he said.

This is also the first Major League Opening Day for Billy Butler, Leo Nunez, Alberto Callaspo, Ramon Ramirez and Yasuhiko Yabuta, the newcomer from Japan. The others all have Major League experience but haven't opened the season on a big league roster.

"It helps that I played in quite a few games last year, but it's still going to be very exciting and emotional and you've just got to control it," Butler said. "[You] just try to act like it's just another game."

This is the 40th Opening Day for the Royals and the second for shortstop Tony Pena Jr.

"There's only one a year, so it's pretty exciting. All the fans just start getting into it, and it's fun to be in this situation," Pena said.

Olivo cannot be in the dugout during his suspension for fighting last year when he was with the Florida Marlins.

"I just do my work and leave. I might go to my hotel. I don't know," Olivo said. "Maybe I can go in the stadium somewhere. It's not a big deal right now. I don't care about that."

He cares about being out of four games, though.

"It's a little frustrating for me. I've never been in this situation before but that's what happens when you try to protect your team," he said. "We got in a fight and I'm the only one who paid. But it's part of baseball."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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