Fans pack chilly Camden Yards for playoff return
Orioles fans waited 15 years to see a playoff game at Camden
Yards, so enduring a rain delay wasn’t all that much of an
Even if it was snowing, nothing was going to dampen the
enthusiasm of the crowd for the opening game of the AL division
series between Baltimore and the New York Yankees on Sunday
”I want to see the Orioles beat the pants off the Yankees,”
said 57-year-old Carol Pounsberry, who was the first in line at
Gate A, three hours before the scheduled 6:15 p.m. start.
A steady rain delayed the first pitch for nearly 2 1-2 hours.
Those in attendance knew that no matter when the first pitch came,
it would be worth the wait.
After 14 straight losing seasons, the Orioles pulled off a
stunning reversal by winning 93 games to earn a wild-card berth.
Then, after beating Texas 5-1 on Friday, Baltimore returned home to
host the hated Yankees in Game 1 of the first-round series.
This is the time of year when the stadium is usually locked shut
and the field is blanketed with a tarp. Instead, the fans flocked
into the park while the Orioles took batting practice. The Major
League Baseball logo with the word ”POSTSEASON” was painted on
the outside portion of the first- and third-base foul lines.
When the Orioles last played a playoff game at Camden Yards,
Baltimore lost a seven-game AL championship series to Cleveland,
4-2. The series ended with Armando Benitez giving up the winning
run in the 11th inning.
Jim Thome, now 42 and a designated hitter for Baltimore, was
Cleveland’s first baseman that day.
”I was here in `97 with my wife when Benitez lost the game and
probably the World Series,” said 58-year-old Rick Lynch, who was
wearing an Orioles hat, a jersey and a coat.
Since that time, the Orioles headed home after the final
regular-season game. Without fail. Until now.
Stephanie Brooks was 11 years old in 1997. She arrived Sunday
with her fiance, Justin Sucuiletti, who was wearing a Derek Jeter
jersey and a Yankees cap.
”My dad was an avid Orioles fan. He grew up in Maryland and he
raised me to be an Orioles fan,” she said. ”I have never seen
them in the playoffs, so this is really exciting for me.”
Sucuiletti wasn’t sure whether the couple could survive the week
without an argument.
”It depends on who wins tonight or the next few games,” he
said. ”Whoever advances to the ALCS.”
Since 1997, the Yankees have participated in the playoffs every
single year except for one. Brooks figured it was about time for
the Orioles to show their superiority.
”I think it’s really important because the Yankees win so
much,” she said. ”It’s really special for us to be here. I would
love to have the opportunity to brag over him about it.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter could only hope his team would
appreciate the moment, but not be affected by it.
”It’s impossible to tell your players to take the emotion out
of an at-bat or a pitch or a throw or whatever,” he said. ”That’s
why we’ve tried to do as much as we can, everything the same with
some exceptions, with the schedule. We’re trying to stay in
Ah, but nothing about this was routine. On a wet, chilly Sunday
in October, the Baltimore Ravens’ home stadium across the street
was empty and Camden Yards was buzzing.
”I’m glad they’re back where they should be,” Pounsberry said.
”I have been waiting 15 years to see this.”