Stewart hopes for repeat of birthday bash

Stewart hopes for repeat of birthday bash

Stewart hopes for repeat of birthday bash
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ian Stewart celebrated his 25th birthday on April 5, 2010, in a big way with a Major League milestone.

Stewart homered that day in his first plate appearance -- and on the first pitch he swung at -- and became the first player in Major League history to homer in his first at-bat in the season opener on his birthday. The only other player to homer on his birthday in the season opener was Scott Rolen in 2000.

Stewart was playing for the Rockies in Milwaukee and connected on a 3-0 pitch from the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo.

On Thursday, Stewart will start at third for the Cubs when they open the season against the Nationals at Wrigley Field. It will be his 27th birthday.

"[Nice] birthday present -- spend your birthday in Chicago playing for the Cubs," he said.

Stewart is definitely ready for the regular season to start. The Cubs third baseman has played solid defense this spring and feels good at the plate.

"I feel like I've been ready for maybe a week," he said. "My swing's been good, my timing's been on at the plate. Usually, it takes hitters two to three weeks at the most to be feeling good. Obviously, we're here longer [in Spring Training] for the pitchers. I'm looking forward to a couple days from now."

What's also been encouraging is how Stewart's left wrist has responded this spring. He was able to steal a base and survived.

"I still have that bad habit of kind of dragging my wrist," Stewart said of his slide. "I have tape on and a padded wristband thing, and I also have a hard splint that I put on for baserunning. That's helped big time. When you've slid that way for your whole life, it's hard to break and I'm trying, but it's comforting to know that the braces and stuff are working, too."

For trivia buffs, there have been two Cubs who celebrated a birthday by playing on Opening Day. Ross Barnes did so on May 8, 1877, when he turned 27. He went 2-for-4 and scored twice. April 2, 2001, was Jon Lieber's 31st birthday, and he started in the Cubs' Opening Day game against the Expos. He did not get a decision.

And Stewart won't be the only one celebrating. Thursday is backup catcher Steve Clevenger's 26th birthday.