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The quietest Opening Day in Camden Yards’ history

The quietest Opening Day in Camden Yards’ history

BALTIMORE — At first glance, the corner of West Camden and Eutaw Street in Baltimore offered no signs anything was amiss. 

The wind breezed lightly through the city on a late-March afternoon, where the temperature neared 60 degrees and partly cloudy skies allowed the sun to shine bright on an early spring day. 

The trees that bloomed all around Oriole Park at Camden Yards at every street corner meant warmer weather was here and baseball season had arrived.

On Thursday, though, there was no baseball. There won’t be baseball Friday either, and there won’t be baseball for, at the very least, a few more weeks — and perhaps longer. 

Two weeks ago, Major League Baseball announced the postponement of the regular season due to the coronavirus pandemic. There still isn’t a known start date for the 2020 regular season. Instead of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole making his AL East debut against John Means — the likely starter for the Orioles — baseball stood still.

“It’s going to be weird knowing that we’re not playing,” manager Brandon Hyde said last Thursday on a conference call. “But there are a lot bigger things than Opening Day right now and a lot bigger things going on in the world.”

The coronavirus pandemic has led to businesses operating in a limited capacity, if at all, as every aspect of life around Baltimore and the U.S. has changed drastically in the last two weeks. As Thursday proved, not even the Orioles are insusceptible. 

Opening Day almost assuredly wasn’t going to be the start of a miraculous run toward relevance for the Orioles. But it was the first chance for fans to see the new look Orioles squad, now in the second year of a rebuild, try and get halfway to the total wins they had over the Yankees last season — two. 

And with the game postponed, perhaps the most human part of Opening Day was canceled, too.

Pickles Pub wasn’t filled to the brim with Orioles fans clad in orange and black, paying no mind to the time or the drinks in their hands. Street vendors weren’t selling hot dogs to parents and kids who decided playing hooky for the day would be a better use of their time. 

John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” didn’t blare through the speakers in the late afternoon for the seventh-inning stretch, either. 

Instead, one of baseball’s most beautiful parks was quiet on the most celebrated day of the season.

Neighborhood streets and parking lots around Camden Yards were filled with cars, but only because everyone sat at home with no baseball game to attend to. 

The earliest, and 66th, Opening Day in Baltimore Orioles history didn’t happen. The Orioles are now ontrack, should the season resume, for the latest Opening Day in history. 

For now, the park will remain closed. Over 10 days ago, the CDC recommended gatherings of more than 50 people be stopped for at least eight weeks, which could lead to some clues as to when Eutaw Street is filled once again.

That reality is, however, that the corner of West Camden and Eutaw will remain quiet for the foreseeable future. 

Opening Day will come for Baltimore in the 2020 season. 

The biggest question, though, is when?

“Opening Day is such a special day, and there’s a lot of emotions that go through everyone involved in an opening day ceremony,” Hyde said. “It’s something you never forget. This year is going to be pushed back. Now, we’re going to be looking forward to the 2020 opening day, whenever that is.”

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Who the Orioles could pick at No. 2 in 2020 MLB Draft, according to one expert

Who the Orioles could pick at No. 2 in 2020 MLB Draft, according to one expert

In the 2019 MLB Draft, the Baltimore Orioles took a major step toward rebuilding their roster and farm system by selecting catcher Adley Rutschman No. 1 overall. The switch-hitting backstop projects to become the cornerstone of the franchise. This year, the team can add another major piece in the 2020 MLB Draft as they have the second overall pick.

Though the draft has been shortened from 40 rounds to just five, it doesn't truly impact what Baltimore will do at No. 2. There, they will still have an opportunity to select the next piece of their future, and plenty of good options will be available.

But, unlike last year where Rutchsman was the shoo-in all along, the choices are not as clear cut in 2020. MLB Pipeline senior writer Jim Callis, who has closely studied the group of prospects, believes there are a few different ways the Orioles could go.

“I don’t think it’s a clear cut decision at No. 2 yet," Callis told MASN's Steve Melewski.

When it comes to who Callis could see Baltimore selecting, the dream-scenario would be Spencer Torkelson out of Arizona State University. However, it's considered a dream because the most likely outcome is that the Detriot Tigers will take Torkelson first overall. The first baseman has a special bat according to Callis and resembles the talent Rutschman has demonstrated at the plate.

Though there is a slim chance of it happening, the idea of those two one day sharing a lineup card in Baltimore would have the Orioles over the moon with excitement.

“To image those two guys in the middle of the lineup," Callis said. "Woo, that would be pretty exciting.”

Yet, if Torkelson does go No. 1, there is still plenty of talent available in the draft class. A name that comes to mind for Callis is Vanderbilt's Austin Martin. The position player asserted himself as a top prospect after his 2019 collegiate season in which he led the SEC in batting average (.392) and on-base percentage (.486) all while helping his team dominate the toughest conference in baseball and claim a College World Series title.

In Martin, the Orioles could be getting another reliable bat for years and years to come, one Callis claims to be the "best pure hitter in the draft." However, Martin's major area of concern is defense, as many are still unsure as to what his best position is. 

“I think there’s some questions as to where he’s gonna play," Callis said of Martin. “Is he a center fielder, a third baseman, an offensive second baseman? That’s a little unclear.”

After struggling in the infield, largely due to an inability to consistently make the throws from the left side of the diamond, Martin made the move to center field. However, due to the shortened 2020 season, he lost valuable reps in the outfield. Despite that, Callis sees that and one other option as Martin's best spot in the pros.

“My guess is he’s going to be a center fielder or second baseman," Callis said.

If the Orioles are not sold on Martin, or want to grab a player of similar skill but for a little less price, Nick Gonzales out of New Mexico State could be a fit as well. Versatile, he led the NCAA in batting in 2019 with a .423 average.

Baltimore could also decide it wants to add a pitcher at No. 2 overall, and based on how Callis views that portion of the draft class, it could be a beneficial decision. After a down year for pitchers in 2019, things look a lot better in 2020.

“[2019] was not a good year for college pitching. It was probably, I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, the worst draft I’ve seen in terms of first-round caliber college arms," Callis said. "This year, college pitching is a strength. There’s a lot of good college pitching.”

The best, according to Callis, is Texas A&M's Asa Lacy. The left-handed starter was off to a strong start to the 2020 season (3-0, 0.75 ERA) before games were canceled. The Orioles could always use another arm to one day rely upon at the Major League level, and Callis sees Lacy as the best prospect to fit that mold.

Even with Lacy's potential, the talented pitching class may sway Baltimore away from him. The Orioles also hold the No. 30 and No. 39 picks in the draft in addition to their first-round selection, and Callis has a feeling that other very good arms will be available.

“There’s gonna be really good pitchers available at 30," Callis said. "Much more so than I think the hitters that will be available at 30.”

With the draft just a couple of weeks away, Martin, Gonzales and Lacy are seen as the three most likely options for the Orioles. No matter who the team ends up selecting with the No. 2 overall pick, Callis believes that they will become a big part of Baltimore's future success. A few years down the line, the 2020 class should have a good reputation in Callis' eyes.

“It’s the first year of the decade. I would bet that we look back in history and this would be one of the top two or three draft classes of the 2020s," Callis said.

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Glove Jeffrey Maier used to catch Derek Jeter's HR vs. Orioles in 1996 ALCS is up for auction

Glove Jeffrey Maier used to catch Derek Jeter's HR vs. Orioles in 1996 ALCS is up for auction

Orioles and Yankees fans, and plenty of other baseball supporters, will forever remember the name Jeffrey Maier. Now, if they want to, they can own an item of his that will always be a part of MLB history.

Maier's glove from Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS is now up for auction through Lelands Auctions, according to The Action Network's Darren Rovell. The minimum bid on the item is $2,500.

For those who need a refresher -- sorry Orioles fans -- a 12-year-old Maier made his mark During Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS between Baltimore and the New York Yankees. The Orioles held a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. With a young Derek Jeter stepping up to the plate, Maier was a fan planted at the front of the right-field stands. Jeter sent a ball his way, and Maier reached out and grabbed the "home run."

Home run is in parenthesis because the argument to this day is that Orioles' right fielder Tony Tarasco was in a position to potentially catch the ball as it was not going over the wall, but Maier interferes with the play. Despite evidence to support that, it was called in the Yankees favor.

New York would then go on to win the game in extra innings, shifting the momentum in the series and eventually advancing to the World Series. For Yankees fans, Maier could be viewed as a small hero. As for those in Baltimore, he carries a similar reputation to Steve Bartman. 

New Yorkers may want the glove as a symbol from their 1996 World Series run, while Baltimore fans already have some ideas for what they would do with the tainted piece of history.

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