Opening Day A New Beginning For Ellis

Opening Day is always special for Mark Ellis, whether he is playing in the majors, the minors, college or Little League. <br><br> "Especially in South Dakota," Ellis said. "It's great because Opening Day (there) is around June 1st. You wait all winter to play baseball and it's finally the time you can play. It's the same thing in the big leagues.

"Everybody is excited about baseball. You feel the passion for the game. The stadium is filled. You see the kids out there and are into it. It's definitely special."

This year, Opening Day was extra special for Ellis. A year ago, he was on his couch in Arizona, his arm was in a sling, it was the toughest Opening Day of his life. His career was in jeopardy, even though he didn't know it.

Even before it occurs, Ellis knows when the players are introduced at Camden Yards and lineup on the infield chalk lines on Monday (April 4), he would have butterflies in his stomach, and the goose bumps on his arms won't just be due to the chill in Baltimore.

"It's going to be great, I've thought about it a lot," Ellis said. "I thought about a lot this winter. It's going to be really exciting. It's been a long year and I'm really looking forward to the start of the season and getting all those jitters out of the way."

Ellis missed last season with a separated shoulder and torn labrum from a freak spring training collision with shortstop Bobby Crosby. Ellis suffered nerve damage so extensive, surgery was never possible.

Instead, Ellis spent the last year going through a painfully boring and torturously slow rehab process. Ellis was nervous because surgery was never performed, especially after players such as Richie Sexson and Troy Glaus, who also didn't have surgery, re-injured the shoulder and missed more time.

Ellis tried to keep his spirits high by watching A's games on satellite from his Arizona home with his wife Sarah.

"We'd sit there for about the first week or two of the season and watched every game," Ellis said. "But then it just became too tough to watch."

Occasional trips to Oakland brightened Ellis' spirits and trainers raved about the progress he was making.

Still, in October, when Ellis played in instructional league games, his return didn't look favorable. The A's had legitimate reason to believe Ellis would never return, or never be as good, prompting the decision to trade for Keith Ginter.

Ellis kept working and defied the odds. He isn't 100 percent and probably will never be. It's always possible the shoulder will pop out of the socket again.

But this spring, Ellis proved he can make every throw on the diamond, from any arm angle, at any speed, and with a runner charging right at him as he's turning a double play.

"We're happy for him as a person moreso than we're happy for him from the team's standpoint," general manager Billy Beane said. "He's worked so hard. To lose the year he lost and have his career in question, it was heartbreaking from a personal standpoint.

"He'll always have to play around it a little. He's shown the ability down here that looks like he can. It will probably always have some impact going forward. He seems to make the adjustments that he's needed to make."

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