BALTIMORE— Before Monday’s opener, manager Buck Showalter was asked what his most memorable Opening Day was.
“I don’t know. Maybe today,” he answered.
Nearly 10 hours after Showalter’s reply, he summed up his 17th opener this way: “That was a long day at the park.”
The day included two rain delays, totaling nearly three hours, and ended with a ninth-inning rally that gave the Orioles their sixth straight Opening Day win.
The biggest hero wasn’t Matt Wieters, who hit the game-winning single or Mark Trumbo, who had four hits and helped build that run.
It was memorable, and truly unforgettable for the most appealing rookie, Joey Rickard.
Rickard, who won over his teammates with his stellar play in spring training, proved Grapefruit League was no fluke. He quickly charmed the sellout crowd of 45,785 at Oriole Park with two hits in his first two at-bats as the Orioles beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2.
Showalter presented Rickard with the lineup card afterwards, and Baltimore’s newest folk hero, was stunned by the crowd reaction.
As he came to the plate, they started yelling: “Joey, Joey, Joey.”
“I’m three at bats into the season and they’re screaming and chanting my name. That’s something special. I don’t know another another city that like that. It’s definitely the first time it’s happened to me, but turned around and gave them a wave. Right now they love me, so I’m I happy about it. I love them,” Rickard said.
Rickard wasn’t involved in the winning inning.
With two outs, Chris Davis worked out a walk against Kevin Jepsen (0-1). Trumbo, making his Orioles debut singled to center to send Davis to third, and Wieters, who was hitless in four at-bats singled to center for the winning run.
“It was nice to get an opportunity there because you're thinking about that a little bit, not during the game, but after the game. If it's not always the last opportunity that was the big one. I was glad to be able to get another chance and drive in a run,” Wieters said.
Zach Britton (1-0) pitched the ninth for the win.
There were two rain delays totaling two hours, 51 minutes—one of 1 hour, 41 minutes at the start---just after Opening Day ceremonies concluded and another of 70 minutes after the second inning.
The first delay was mostly a precaution, and there probably wasn’t enough rain at any time that would have warranted a halt to the proceedings. The second one was an authentic delay, but by the time play resumed nearly 3 ½ hours from the scheduled start, only about a third of the original crowd was still on hand.
By then, Chris Tillman, who had been brilliant, striking out the last five of his six hitters, was gone.
“Very frustrating. I don’t like it one bit but you know what? It happened and both teams had to deal with it. Now you move on,” Tillman said.
Showalter said he might start Tillman quicker than Saturday, his next scheduled outing.
Tyler Wilson pitched three scoreless innings, and for a time, looked as if he’d get the win.
Rickard, who singled in his first at-bat in the second, doubled to right to begin the sixth against Casey Fien. Manny Machado’s single to right sent him to third. Both scored on Adam Jones’ double to center, and the Orioles (1-0) led 2-0.
Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless sixth and retired the first batter of the seventh. Edwin Rosario doubled, and then Byung Ho Park, playing in his first major league game, was hit by a pitch. Eduardo Escobar doubled for a run, and Brad Brach relieved Givens.
Kurt Suzuki flied to left, and after a prolonged run, Rickard reached into the stands and nabbed the ball, but Park scored the tying run for the Twins (0-1).
Showalter enjoys the festivities around this special day, but doesn’t want to be overwhelmed.
“It was a challenging day emotionally. There’s a lot of emotion swings in the pre-game, that’s part of Opening Day. A lot people, most of all our fans, have put a lot of time and effort into making this a special day. And we didn’t want to let them down. Trying to not only win the game but trying to present what Opening Days are supposed to be about,” Showalter said.
“I think if you’d asked all of them what they want Opening Day to be about [they’d say] it’s the Orioles winning. So that was the key to a good Opening Day for all of us.”
NOTES: Rickard is the first Rule 5 draft pick to start a game for the Orioles. … Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Gibson pitch on Wednesday night after Tuesday’s off day.