The mood at Camden Yards today has taken swings more intense than anything Chris Davis will deliver at home plate.
MASN’s Jim Hunter, serving as emcee for the opening day festivities, introduced tributes to former center fielder Paul Blair, public relations director Monica Pence Barlow and author and minority owner Tom Clancy.
Blair is the only Oriole to start more consecutive opening days at one outfield position (12) than Nick Markakis (eight).
The Orioles announced that Barlow’s seat in the press box will remain empty for the 2014 season, bringing applause from media that had no issue with violating the code against cheering inside of it.
Later, the Orioles ran a scroll on the scoreboard of 13 names of the Orioles family who passed away since last opening day, including former outfielder Drungo Hazewood.
Barlow’s husband, Ben, her parents, sister, brother and other family and friends are watching the game from the Showalter’s suite on the fourth floor.
The Orioles also announced that they are creating a Tom Clancy Orioles Reading Club in his honor.
Now, here’s where the mood really shifted.
Manager Buck Showalter received a rousing ovation during introductions. He slapped hands with coaches and staff introduced before him and waved his cap to the crowd.
Manny Machado trotted out of the dugout on his surgically repaired left knee, bringing another loud ovation, while the rest of his teammates ran onto the field from the bullpen. Machado, Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy received their Rawlings Gold Gloves. Machado had his arms full, also receiving the Platinum Glove.
The Orioles gave Machado a $100,000 bonus for winning that Platinum Glove. It wasn’t part of his 2014 contract.
As expected, Davis almost brought down the house upon his introduction. Locals Steve Clevenger and Steve Lombardozzi also got a lot of love, and Nelson Cruz was greeted by the sound of “Cruuuuz” coming from the packed stands.
Jonathan Schoop may have rivaled Davis and Machado for loudest ovation in his first opening day. The volume also was cranked up for Markakis, who made it into today’s lineup after taking batting practice. He was questionable due to the neck stiffness that developed during Saturday’s flight from Sarasota to Norfolk.
And finally, Kevin Gausman will start Norfolk’s opener on Thursday.
Chris Tillman’s first pitch to Daniel Nava was a strike, and the 2014 season is underway.
Update: Tillman struck out David Ortiz and Mike Napoli on 95 mph fastballs to end the first inning and strand Dustin Pedroia, who singled with one out. Ortiz is 1-for-17 against Tillman.
J.J. Hardy collected the first Orioles hit of 2014 with a one-out single in the bottom of the first, making him 9-for-28 against Jon Lester.
Hardy is batting second today. Not his preference. Not Showalter’s preference.