For both Army and Navy, “an incredible experience” at Camden Yards

The first flakes fluttered from the sky late in the sixth inning of the opening game of Sunday’s doubleheader between Army West Point and Navy at Camden Yards. They floated and danced from the clouds, but barely had any effect on what was happening on the field between two rival service academies.

Within minutes, however, the ballpark was engulfed in a full-fledged snow squall. And as Navy took the field for the top of the seventh, the umpires huddled as fans strained to see warm-up pitches and infield grounders amid the swirling snow.

An ensuing 23-minute snow delay chased away much of the hearty crowd that filled the lower seating bowl between the dugouts, but didn’t diminish the enthusiasm for the first in a series of events in a new partnership between the Orioles and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Army-Navy-doubleheader-sidebar.jpg“It was just an incredible experience,” said Navy center fielder Logan Knowles. “Obviously, very grateful for the Orioles for even being out here playing. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t give ourselves a better effort today, but we really enjoyed ourselves.”

Added Midshipman second baseman Zach Biggers: “It’s not an opportunity that comes around every day. We’re truly blessed and grateful to be able to be a part of it.”

Army won both ends of the doubleheader, prevailing 5-3 in 10 innings in the first game and 8-2 in the nightcap. The twinbill was the first in a series of events in the Navy-Orioles partnership, which also includes Navy Day at Camden Yards in August, an Orioles exhibition game against a major league opponent at Max Bishop Stadium in Annapolis next spring and a Navy trip to the Orioles’ year-round training facility in Sarasota, Fla.

“I think it’s going to be a really amazing opportunity to for teams to come. ... If this is just the first taste, obviously there’s going to be a lot more amazing things in store,” Knowles said.

Sunday’s games will be memorable for several reasons, including the freak snow blast that interrupted the game and the fact that the storied Army-Navy rivalry got to be played out on a larger baseball stage.

“My main concern was being able to see the ball,” Knowles said when asked about the snow squall. “I was throwing a couple up there to (right fielder Stephen Born) to see if we could see it. We were fine, we were ready to play in it. Obviously, that was a lot of snow to be coming down. I mean, it’s baseball, for crying out loud. It’s not football or anything.”

Anytime Navy and Army tangle, regardless of the sport or venue, more than bragging rights are on the line.

“It means a lot,” said Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Life if a cumulative amount of experiences and this is an experience they’re going to have that they’re not going to forget. They’re always going to know that back in the day, I came to Camden Yards and played Army.”

Army coach Jim Foster had some added history heading into the game at Camden Yards. Foster, 46, spent time in the Orioles organization as a catcher between 1993-2000, though this was his first game at his former club’s home park. Foster never reached the majors, topping out at Triple-A, including the 1999 campaign at Rochester, then the O’s top farm club.

“Been trying to get here for a long time,” Foster said, joking that he was blocked for years by former Orioles backstop Charles Johnson. “Finally to get here to play a game was a lot of fun. I was really excited to get here this morning, to have my son with me was special. ... I got called up for a Hall of Fame Game once. Got to come in here and we flew up to Cooperstown and played the Blue Jays and then we came back. So I guess I was a big leaguer for a day. This is something the kids will never forget, that they’ll have with them the rest of their life.”

Army catcher Jon Rosoff, who hit the tiebreaking single in the opening-game win, proudly wore torn and dirty uniform pants to his postgame meeting with the media.

“I’m not going to wash these,” he said. “Not many people can say they’ve got dirt (from) Camden Yards on their uniforms.”

Sunday’s game was the first meeting between the two academies this season. They will meet in Fenway Park in Boston on April 20, then at West Point the following day for another doubleheader.

“Last year, we went 1-3 against (Navy),” Rosoff said. “My sophomore year we went 0-4. My freshman year we went 1-3. It was really big to come out and get two Ws.”

Kostacopoulos was pleased for the opportunity to expose new fans to the Army-Navy rivalry. The first game of the doubleheader was televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

“It’s everything that’s good in athletics,” he said. “It’s character kids going out there and playing athletics, competing as hard as they can for the right reasons. Eventually, their baseball days are over. When they become a senior, they’re ... going to go serve our country. It’s what athletics should be and it’s what athletics can be. That’s why I’m so excited about the Army-Navy games. Baseball, football, any of our sports - I think it brings out the best in our kids. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”

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