Let us take a journey back to March of 2008. The #1 song in the country at the time was “Love In This Club” by Usher ft. Young Jeezy, Barack Obama and John McCain were on their way to securing their respective parties nomination for President, and the “Sex In The City” movie was only weeks away from debuting. This was also the time I was gearing up to attend my very first Opening Day for the Orioles.
The O’s were set to play the new look Tampa Bay Rays, fresh from shedding the “Devil” from their name and adopting a new color scheme and uniform. Little did we know this scrappy team from a suburb of Tampa would soon be representing the American League in the World Series. But for now, they had to go up against Jeremy Guthrie and the Baltimore Orioles who were fresh off a 69-93 season the year before.
In that offseason, we saw the departure of two notable players from that team: Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada. By now I am sure you know well enough about those trades and what has resulted from them, but as a naive kid I was confused at the premise of trading away your best players when you were not good. Regardless, the Orioles took the field with two new faces that year: Adam Jones and Luke Scott.
As for the actual game, I do not remember much from it or that day in general. I remember getting out of school early to get down there early and make our way through the ballpark until the game started. While the Orioles did end up losing the game 6-2, it was the start of a tradition I was not aware I had gotten myself into.
The next year, the Yankees came into town. It was C.C. Sabathia’s first start for the Yankees in a year where they found themselves representing the American League in the World Series. Unlike the Rays, the Yankees actually ended up winning it all. As for the game, I actually remember some of this one unlike the previous year. I remember it being the first time I went to an Orioles-Yankees game where a majority of the fans were O’s fans. I also remember Cesar Izturis getting a home run late in the game to widen the lead the Orioles had. Thanks to the power of YouTube, I was actually able to find a recap of that game!
Like I said, the only thing I vividly remember is that Izturis home run. I also remember when Joe Girardi pulled C.C. and some dude in front of me flipped him off from the stands and I thought that was just the most hilarious thing at the time.
As for 2010, the O’s opened up on the road in Tampa Bay. I recall a good amount from this first set of games simply because newly acquired pitcher Mike Gonzalez blew a save against the Rays on Opening Day, followed by Gonzalez facing the same fate just a couple of days later against the Blue Jays.
It is wild to see video of Brad Bergesen pitch again though. It is also even more wild to think what his career is known for now: an injury he got during a filming of a commercial.
Just like in 2010, the Orioles opened up on the road in Tampa Bay once again in 2011. They would get to come home to face the Tigers on April 4th; a game that saw Jake Arrieta go six innings while allowing only one run and Brian Roberts hitting a three run home run.
One of the things I remember from this game was it was the first time I saw somebody run onto the field during a game. Like before with the guy flipping the bird to C.C., I thought this was just hilarious. It also happened the next year with a guy who dressed up as Batman to try and become a local celebrity. I wonder what that guy is up to right now.
Speaking of 2012, the Orioles were back to open up at home; this time against the Minnesota Twins. Little did I know it at the time but that was just the beginning to a long and memorable season which saw the Orioles make the postseason for the first time since 1997, and the first time I was able to comprehend it.
The following year, the O’s opened up on the road again in Tampa Bay but had their home opener not too much later and once again played the Twins. I am sure a lot of people remember this Opening Day for the Chris Davis grand slam that gave him his four home run on the season at the time.
Not only was that the start of a 53 home run season for Davis but it put the O’s ahead in that game and eventually led to them winning. I did not go to the Delmon Young game during the 2014 ALDS but I can tell you that the loudest I have ever heard Camden Yards was when Davis hit that home run. There were legitimate chants of “MVP!” only four games into the season. Ironically, Davis finished 3rd in AL MVP voting in 2013.
As for 2014, it was the Nelson Cruz show.
I remember getting to the Yard that day even before the gates opened because I had standing room only tickets for me and my three friends I went with that year. As soon as the gates opened, we rushed to the front of the flag court to get a spot on the railing. Being the dummy I was at 17 (not many things have changed) I forgot sunscreen so my face burned that day but I was wearing sunglasses so I was stuck with raccoon eyes for about a week. It was worth it though.
2015 is probably the most depressing Opening Day I’ve been to only because that was the year I worked for the team with the event staff (the people in the orange polos and khakis) and I wasn’t able to watch the game or partake in any of the excitement. The Orioles also lost that game to the Blue Jays which did not help things.
The next year was a different story though. No longer working for the team, I got to once again be a fan and enjoy the game from the comfort of a seat inside the ballpark. After Chris Tillman got off to an amazing start, it began to rain and delayed the game for a good amount of time – forcing Tillman to leave the game. Insert: Tyler Wilson, who pitched rather well in a short notice long inning relief job. Wilson went three innings allowing no runs on two hits. Matt Wieters also hit a walk off single which was nice to see after the possibility of him leaving that offseason. Luckily for us that day, he agreed to his qualifying offer in the previous offseason becoming one of the first players in MLB history to ever do that, along with current Oriole Colby Rasmus, who agreed to it with Houston in the same offseason.
Luckily enough for us O’s fans, we got back-to-back years of walk off Orioles Magic. This time, in the form of a Mark Trumbo home run off famed grunter while pitching, Jason Grilli.
Looking back on all of this, it is crazy to think that it has only been 10 years since my first Opening Day. It feels like time has just flied by. While so many things that happen in my personal life seem to change on a year-to-year, sometimes even month-to-month or day-to-day basis, one thing always remains the same: I will be in Camden Yards in late March or early April screaming at the top of my lungs for a team I have cared about since I was 7.
It can be hard to describe that level of passion to somebody else that does not understand it or does not watch sports. In the United States we put sports on this almost-religious pedestal and hold true to many traditions that on-lookers may see as crazy or a waste of time yet we always find ourselves back here doing the same things we do every year for the teams we love.
That, honestly, is my favorite thing about Opening Day. It is that unique thing that baseball fans get to look forward to all winter long in the hope that it is your team seven months later is the last one standing.
For some closing thoughts, I will leave you with an Instagram post from somebody who will also be celebrating their 11th straight Opening Day with the Orioles: Adam Jones.