Andrew Stetka: O’s hit a home run with 60th anniversary celebration

As an out-of-town fan living in Arizona, I always make it a point to come back into Baltimore for an Orioles game at least once a year. The opportunity to come to Camden Yards, where I saw so many games growing up and spent a great deal of my childhood, is always a treat and a chance I don’t pass up. There was little debate as to when I’d be coming back for a game this season once I saw what was planned for the O’s 60th anniversary celebration. Getting back in August, when the heat in the southwest really starts to take its toll, was just an added bonus.

Returning to Oriole Park on Friday night was not only a treat because I had so many family members join me to make the occasion special, but I felt like so much of the Orioles family was also on hand for the celebration. The collection of former Orioles on the field was breathtaking. The laser light show and fireworks were coordinated and choreographed perfectly. The images placed on the video board and warehouse brought the stadium to life and stirred up memories of three World Series championships, Memorial Stadium and Orioles Magic.

A total of 22 Orioles Hall of Famers took the field in grand style, each taking a bow at home plate before joining other former greats along the foul lines. The end of the ceremony brought a great surprise when the current roster of Orioles joined the Hall of Famers on the field, shaking hands and taking photos. The bridge was built from past to present, and the history and memories conjured up throughout the night were endless.

The Orioles were in some danger of running out of fireworks for the postgame show during the game after launching six homers. Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy blasted three-run “Earl Weaver Special” homers and brought a whole new dimension to the celebration. The O’s dominating 12-2 victory made the night even more special.

I’ve already heard Friday’s ceremony and celebration compared to many things. It’s been sized up with Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2131 game, when he broke Lou Gehrig’s mark for consecutive games played. I’ve heard it rivaled the final game at Memorial Stadium, when so many former O’s came back to say goodbye to the famed stadium. The great thing about the 60th anniversary festivities is that they were truly unique.

You won’t soon see a collection of former players and team history brought to the forefront like you did Friday. It was incredibly different, especially with the lasers, fireworks and clips of past memories brought to life on the great backdrop that is the warehouse. Getting the chance to view such a special occasion in such a special ballpark is something I won’t soon forget. It goes right up there with playoff games, Ripken’s magical night in 1995 and seeing Eddie Murray’s 500th home run in person.

All of this is what makes coming back to Baltimore so special. The experience of seeing your team play in person, especially a first-place squad that is performing so well, is something you can never take for granted. There will be future trips back to town to see the Orioles, but this most recent one is going to stay entrenched in my memory forever. That’s just the way it should be.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AStetka. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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