A “sellout” crowd of 10,150 rose to its feet and gave Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini an extended standing ovation during Opening Day introductions at Camden Yards.
Moments later, the fans thunderously yelled the ceremonial “O” during the National Anthem.
Baseball was back in Baltimore, at least in a different way for now because of restrictions with attendance. However, the players and fans were just happy to take one more step toward normalcy after dealing with the challenges of a pandemic for more than a year.
“We have the best fans in baseball here and no matter what, they love us, and that showed today and meant the world to me,” Mancini said. “Even though it was like 25 percent capacity it felt like a full stadium out there and I have goose bumps thinking about it still.
“I had to fight back tears there when I got that first ovation. That’s probably what will stay with me the most.”
The Orioles did not get their desired result in the 7-3 loss to the Red Sox, who have won four straight since being swept by Baltimore to open the season. Still, the fans hung on every pitch and stayed around in the late innings to try to help rally the team.
When Orioles manager Brandon Hyde hastened out of the dugout after Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz was hit on the left elbow by left-hander Eduardo Rodríguez in the fourth, he got into a heated discussion with the plate umpire Jeremie Rehak, who ruled Ruiz swung at the pitch. The crowd cheered as Hyde boisterously pleaded his case before being ejected, which elicited more cheers.
“That was the quickest ejection I’ve ever had,” said Hyde, who has been ejected six times in his career, five as a manager. “I was very surprised by it. Leave it at that.”
The incident didn’t hamper the overall good feeling of the day.
Rookie outfielder Ryan Mountcastle and catcher Pedro Severino jolted the crowd with home runs. From the long orange carpet for player introductions to the customary games on the scoreboard, there was a carnival-like atmosphere throughout the day.
“I think any time you have a home opener, it’s exciting for everybody,” Hyde said. “We have a lot of guys who have never experienced the big leagues before, and so to be able to play in Camden Yards for the first time and to be out there for a home opener, it’s a special moment in someone’s career.
“So, we have a lot of firsts with younger guys, then we have Trey Mancini. It’s an emotional day for him. We have Matt Harvey on the mound and it’s an emotional day for him, so I want these guys to just soak it up and relax and have fun.”
Orioles starter Matt Harvey overcame a shaky first inning and kept the team in position to win the game before running into a jam in the fifth. He was charged with four runs and seven hits in five innings.
The day was also visceral for Harvey, who is trying to get his MLB career back on track after some struggles. He was inspired by the crowd’s reaction to Mancini.
“It’s an incredible thing,” Harvey said. “What he’s gone through and what he’s come full circle around, it’s fun being his teammate and seeing the work he put in and the drive and obviously overcoming what he’s overcome. His first at-bat was pretty special as well. Sitting in the dugout getting to experience that was special and honored to be his teammate.”
The Orioles and Red Sox resume the series Saturday, April 10. The stadium won’t be filled, but the smaller crowd has shown it can loud.
After Opening Day, there won’t be as much excitement. But that’s what makes the opener so special: hope springs eternal.
“You see a lot of smiles on guys’ faces,” Hyde said. “The home opener is special. A lot of guys’ families are here — friends, families — so that always makes it fun. A lot of these guys have never experienced Camden Yards before, so you see guys walking out on the field to take some pictures, soak it in a little bit before they have to go out there and go to work.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox