TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – He was in this same position last season, but for former USF Bulls pitcher Shane McClanahan, it’s just as special this time around to be the Rays’ Opening Day starter. 

“Opening Day is a very special day for all of us,” McClanahan said. “When you first get to camp, you see all the guys and you’re excited and tomorrow the real fun starts. I always think back as a kid to where it’s like, ‘Man, I wish I could do that one time,’ and to have this happen for the second time in my short career so far, it’s been really exciting and I’m really humbled by it.” 

McClanahan got to work through the new pitch clock and pick-off rules this spring training, but Thursday will be the first time in a game that counts. 

“It was interesting at first,” McClanahan said. “Then once you get used to the rules and kind of learn them and understand them a little bit better, you realize that ‘OK, I can use this to my advantage.’ It’s going to speed-up the game and it’s one of those things where you’ve just got to still slow it down any way you can with those 15 seconds. You learn to adjust and it’s a little more time than you think at first.” 

This season the Rays have four players making their first Opening Day roster — a momentous opportunity and milestone in their careers. 

“It feels good,” said Rays first baseman/outfielder Luke Raley. “I wasn’t positive how the swing adjustments I made in the offseason were going to play because I don’t get a ton of live at-bats in the offseason. I was kind of worried about it myself coming in but I just went out and it seemed to really help so I’m hoping that the production stays up.” 

“Opening Day, it’s a big day in player’s careers,” said Rays Manager Kevin Cash. “Certainly as a coaching staff and mine it’s a big day, and you want to show as much appreciation to those individual players as much as possible.” 

Rays’ outfielder Josh Lowe was in that position last spring, and is familiar with that feeling. 

“It’s always exciting finding out you’re making the Opening Day roster,” Josh Lowe said. “Last year was a roller coaster how that happened. This year’s a little easier so I’m blessed to be where I’m at right now—year two doing this so it’s awesome.” 

Whether it’s their first, second, or fifth Opening Day, like Rays’ infielder Brandon Lowe, who said he compares this feeling to that of Christmas morning. The thrill of Opening Day is circulating around the Rays’ clubhouse leading up to that first pitch at 3:10 p.m. on Thursday against the Detroit Tigers.