So it is finally here. The day of the first game of the American League Championship Series between the Orioles and the Kansas City Royals. This felt just like another All-Star break. The last game was Sunday. Just like the four-day break in July. "We're ready. It's been a long wait. It's going to be a wild atmosphere here and we're ready for it," O's first baseman Steve Pearce said before the Orioles workout on Thursday at Camden Yards. Here are some other notes and quotes with the Orioles heading into Game 1: * By now you've heard numerous times about the Royals' running game. They've led major league baseball in steals two straight years. They have stolen 12-of-13 in their four playoff wins. Kansas City players have used the word "fearless" to describe their stolen base threats. They'll run at any time. Here is what Orioles catcher Nick Hundley said when told about the Royals so-called "fearless" nature on the bases. "What is there to fear? If you are prepared and ready to go there is nothing to fear," Hundley said. "That is a good spot they are coming from and it's a great spot we are coming from too. You can talk about fearing our lineup, fearing our power. Why be scared of anything? You put your best foot forward and all the preparation you've done since last November, you put it on the line right now. "It's a great challenge. If you don't want that challenge you shouldn't be here. If you don't want to try and throw out the best guys, you shouldn't be in this position. Just like coming up against the best pitchers or the best bullpen. Right now they are the best in the world at running and we're excited about that challenge." * An Oriole for nine seasons, outfielder Nick Markakis finally played in his first playoff game. He went 3-for-12 with a homer in the Detroit series. Did he ever think he'd see a day like this in Baltimore? "Absolutely," Markakis said. "That is one of the reasons I stayed here. I knew eventually it was going to turn for the better. I wanted to be part of it. If I had to do it all over again I'd do the same thing. "Especially with this city, this fanbase. What this city has to offer in a sports environment is awesome. Our fans love the baseball and football teams. They are awesome people to play for. We're doing this for them." * The Orioles face Kansas City right-hander James Shields (14-8, 3.21 ERA) tonight. He went 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two playoff starts. In 2006, Shields was a rookie with the team known then as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Delmon Young was also a rookie on that team. Those two go way back, back even before they entered pro ball. "I've known self-proclaimed big game James since I was 13 years old," Young said yesterday. "He grew up just 45 minutes away from me. We came up through the minor leagues together in Tampa and came to the big leagues together in Tampa. "He's a competitor. He's never going to give in and he's going to feel like he can throw a complete-game shutout against us. We're going to have to try and get him out of the game early. Once he gets momentum going it's hard to get him off his ride. "He throws up to 95 (mph) and he locates. He's got good offspeed pitches and he can pinpoint all four or five of his pitches," Young said. Final word: The Orioles signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year contract extension yesterday, one that will run through the 2017 season, with an option for 2018. This was huge for the franchise. Just weeks away from free agency, when other teams like the Yankees might have thrown huge dollars his way, Hardy re-upped with the Orioles. This contract agreement says a lot about Hardy, sticking with a team and organization he believes in, but also about the Orioles. It says a lot about their exciting present and potentially very strong future. With Manny Machado having a second knee operation, Hardy became an even bigger priority for this club. The Orioles got it done big time with that deal yesterday.