There's a scene in the movie "Hoosiers" that White Sox manager Rick Renteria brought up as an example for how young players can handle making their major league debut.
In it, a wide-eyed Hickory team enters Indianapolis' Hinkle Fieldhouse in awe of the stage on which they're about to play. Coach Norman Dale -- played by Gene Hackman -- gets out a tape measure and has his players measure the height of the rim and says, "I think you'll find it's the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory."
That's the sort of message Renteria will deliver to center fielder Jacob May, who will hit ninth in his major league debut on Opening Day Monday against the Detroit Tigers. “It's 90 feet (between the bases), 60 feet 6 inches (from the mound to home plate), the fences are all the same," Renteria said. “You're going to have a lot of people cheering for you, but you still gotta go play the game. You gotta bring it back to the most fundamental thing, which is focusing on what you're doing between the lines.
"Obviously it's going to be an exciting time, I'm sure he's going to be a little amped up, which is normal. Everybody always has butterflies on their first time in the big leagues. That's actually a good thing. But managing emotions is something that he's going to have to do. I hope he has a good day tomorrow, just enjoys the moment."
For getting acclimated to life at baseball’s highest level, the 25-year-old May has the benefit of growing up in a baseball family and being around major league stadiums at times during his childhood. May's grandfather, Lee May, was a three-time All-Star and was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' first base coach in 2001 and 2002; May's uncle, Carlos May, played for the White Sox from 1968-1976.
"I'm excited," May said. “It's a dream come true.
"… I remember shagging BP in that stadium (Tropicana Field) and everything like that. It's kind of come full (circle) now that I'm a player."
May took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him during spring training, hitting .319/.338/.478 and impressing the White Sox with his speed (four stolen bases) and defensive instincts. With the decision made in mid-March to have Charlie Tilson begin the season on the disabled list, the door opened for May to start on Opening Day, and he beat out Peter Bourjos (traded to Tampa Bay), Adam Engel (optioned to Triple-A) and Leury Garcia (on the major league bench) to win the nod.
"He just maintained a consistent approach throughout and kind of impressed everyone," Renteria said.
The White Sox lineup Monday is short on experience, with four position players making their first Opening Day start: May, Tyler Saladino, Tim Anderson and Omar Narvaez. But Todd Frazier has been through plenty of openers, and the veteran third baseman said he's talked with May about how to handle the atmosphere and emotions that come with the first game of the season.
"You just tell a guy like that to go have fun," Frazier said. "It's something I always do and just enjoy this Opening Day. You don't know how many you get. This is my sixth one. There's nothing better to be honest with you. It's a great feeling when they announce your name. You don't feel the cold weather or the rain. Then you get in the box. I remember my first at-bat, I thought I was walking on the moon. It was a crazy time for me. I hope he has a memorable day in the best way possible."