Twenty years ago today, right-hander Rick Sutcliffe threw a five-hit shutout to pitch the Orioles past Cleveland to open Camden Yards. He threw another strike today to help lift off the 2012 season.
He said that 1992 opening day was among the most special in his career.
“There was nothing like that one,” Sutcliffe said. “There was always going to be another opening day, but there was never going to be another first opening day at Camden Yards.”
Sutcliffe remembered being a free agent a few months before that opener and the manager that convinced him to come to Baltimore.
“In December of that year, during the winter of ‘91, (then-O’s skipper) Johnny Oates talked me into flying back here. There wasn’t a person in the ballpark other than us two, but he walked me to the mound. He said, ‘You know what my plan is, don’t you? You are going to throw the first pitch ever in this ballpark and I don’t want to hear another word.’
“He said, ‘Go in there and get the deal done and I’ll see you back here on opening day.’ I truly came back here as a favor to him.”
Sutcliffe threw the shutout in a 2-0 win against the Indians that April afternoon.
“What I remember about that game, more than anything, with two outs in our half of the eighth inning, Johnny started walking down toward me on the bench. He looked at me and I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘That’s all I have to hear.’ He had a great option with Gregg Olson, but he gave me the chance to finish what I started.
“To be back here to open the season 20 years later is unbelievable.”
Chris Hoiles caught Sutcliffe that day and caught his first pitch today.
“I just remember the excitement that was in the air that day. The game that Rick threw was unbelievable. There were a lot of special things going on that day,” he said.
Hoiles worked for the Orioles as an instructor during spring training and he said that role will continue in the minors during this season.
“I will be traveling through the minor league as a catching instructor throughout the season. I’ll be popping in throughout the minor league sites over the course of the summer,” he said.