When the Orioles open the 2012 season Friday against the Twins - and begin a season-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards - they'll turn back the clock to 1992 for the ceremonial first pitch. Rick Sutcliffe and Chris Hoiles, who were the pitcher and catcher during the ballpark's debut two decades ago, will reprise their role as battery mates for Friday's festivities.
Sutcliffe, you'll remember, threw a five-hit shutout against the Indians on April 6, 1992 in the first game at the new downtown ballpark. Hoiles went 1-for-3 with an RBI double in the O's 2-0 victory. Their participation in the ceremonial first pitch was part of the club's announcement this morning of a host of activities for the opener.
Orioles players, coaches and staff will enter the stadium from the warning track on center field on an orange carpet during pregame introductions, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. MASN's Jim Hunter will serve as the emcee for pregame ceremonies and 80 members of the Girl Scouts, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary, will line the orange carpet and hold Orioles flags during player introductions. For the 19th consecutive season, one fan will be chosen at random to represent all O's fans as the team's 10th man during pregame ceremonies.
Representing The Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, tenor Rolando Sanz will perform the national anthem and "God Bless America." During the anthem, a 30'x 42' American flag from Fort McHenry will be unfurled over the batter's eye wall in center field. The flag is a replica of the one that flew over Fort McHenry when Francis Scott Key wrote the national anthem. The colors will be presented by the Fort McHenry Guard in celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
Catcher Matt Wieters and right fielder Nick Markakis will receive their Rawlings Gold Gloves before Friday's games. Both were first-time recipients of the award for fielding excellence.
Fans attending the opener will also notice some new things in and around the ballpark.
In recognition of the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards, the Orioles will use baseballs stamped with the 20th anniversary logo for all home games during the 2012 season. The baseballs will be available for purchase in the Orioles Official Team Store at the ballpark and at www.orioles.com.
A new bullpen picnic grove will debut and during the course of the season, statues honoring the six greatest Orioles of all time - Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. - will be unveiled. The picnic grove received significant upgrades and additional landscaping and the area has been renovated to allow fans year-round access, even on non-gamedays.
A new roof deck has been added atop the batter's eye in center field, featuring drink rails, a bar and deck seating. Any fan with a ticket may enjoy this unique vantage point to watch all or a portion of a game, as space permits. The out-of-town scoreboard in right field has been modified to reduce its height by about four feet to improve views of the game from the flag court and Eutaw Street. Art of the Game, a sports art gallery that will be open on gamedays, will be located on Eutaw Street near Gate A and will feature one-of-a-kind paintings, autographed memorabilia and limited edition prints of sports starts.
The ballpark's main concourse has been improved with new flooring and wall coverings. As part of the Maryland Stadium Authority's restoration of the B&O Warehouse brickwork, a replica of the original canopy has been added to the warehouse to shelter portable concessions and fans.
Delaware North Sportservice had made extensive additions to the food offerings available at Camden Yards, highlighted by the opening of Dempsey's Brew Pub and Restaurant on Eutaw Street, and the arrival of Baltimore favorites Gino's and Stuggy's. Dempsey's, named for Orioles Hall of Fame catcher and 1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey, is in the final phase of construction and will be open on opening day and only during games until late April, when a grand opening is planned. Gino's and Stuggy's will both be located below the roof deck in center field at the north end of Eutaw Street. Gino's will feature the Camden Giant - a crab cake on top of a hamburger - in addition to chicken tenders, fries and shakes. Stuggy's will offer an assortment of specialty hot dogs and a rotation of other selections available from its Fells Point location. Eutaw Market, located just south of the team store on Eutaw Street, will feature wrapped sandwiches, chips, bottled drinks and fresh fruit, and will soon be open year-round.
All upper deck concessions have been upgraded with renovated food service equipment, allowing for an expanded menu and more freshly prepared options as well as a new look, similar to what was completed on the lower level prior to the 2011 season.