Orioles trying to feel normal in unusual home opener

The Orioles took batting practice this afternoon on a field that looked as it did for intrasquad games and an exhibition. Nothing to indicate that they were going to hold their home opening day.

No pomp due to the circumstances.

They didn’t need any frills. They just wanted to get settled in their own ballpark after the scare they received earlier in the week in Miami.

“We’re extremely excited for opening day here,” manager Brandon Hyde said during his Zoom conference call. “It’s obviously a lot different than normal, but it is our home opener and our guys are looking forward to getting out there and getting ready to play.”

Hyde walked through the clubhouse earlier and didn’t notice much of a difference in attitude and energy. Guys already are used to playing in empty ballparks after intrasquads, exhibitions and the series in Boston.

“We’re situated differently, we’re way more spread out, everybody’s got masks on,” Hyde said. “But we’re going to go outside here for BP, which is fairly normal. Usually the last round or two of BP fans start to come in, so we definitely miss that at home. It’s a huge loss not having fans and it is different during the game.

“I felt like in Boston when the game started it was fairly normal in the dugout, and they have crowd noise, so it’s not just super-quiet like during some of our intrasquads, so I think that is helpful. But there’s no doubt that it’s different not having fans there. There’s no energy, you really have to bring the energy yourself. You have to create the energy in your dugout at a distance. But having no fans is something none of us is used to.”

A sense of normalcy or whatever qualifies as such in 2020 is easier to attain by getting back in uniform.

“We’re ready to play,” Hyde said. “The last couple days have been definitely strange. We had a workout last night that helped a little bit, but our guys are definitely ready to get on the field and play against another opponent. We’re ready to have our home opener and get back to as normal a season as we can possibly have it.”

Having games the next two nights didn’t become a certainty until Major League Baseball approved the Yankees busing yesterday from Philadelphia to Baltimore. The Marlins are shut down until next week.

Thumbnail image for Iglesias-Warmups-Close-ST-sidebar.jpg“It was a very frustrating situation for all of us,” shortstop José Iglesias said in his Zoom call. “We have the mentality to play the game and then, unfortunately, this situation with this particular team (Marlins). But whatever needs to be done in order to be safe, I think health is very important and we understand that as a group, and we’re just doing what we can to stay healthy and follow the safety protocols every day.”

Iglesias lives in Miami and knows the risks. He stayed in his room at the team hotel, unable to go home and understanding why it was forbidden.

“Definitely, Miami is a hot spot right now,” he said, “but I think everybody on our team did a great job of staying out of it and protecting themselves.”

How did two days off impact the team from a baseball standpoint?

“I guess we’ll find out tonight,” he said.

“I think it’s beneficial for some players at some level, someone needs a break, or not good. I don’t know. We’ll find out tonight, I guess.”

The Orioles provided the opposition for the Red Sox’s home opener and get their own tonight. Still no fans in the seats. Still the oddities that contribute to defining 2020.

“It’s very difficult, very difficult. I’m not going to lie to you,” Iglesias said.

“It’s going to take an extra focus. You’ve got to show your love for the game. I told these guys each and every day and I said it in a meeting the other day, it’s going to take all of us, because I don’t feel good every day and they don’t feel good every day. We’ve got to push each other and keep the energy high.

“It’s very difficult, but I think as a group we’ve got to unite and support one another through these tough times.”

Gerrit Cole won’t make it easier, especially with the Orioles finding out yesterday that the Marlins had been forbidden from traveling to Baltimore, and that the Yankees would make the trip from Philadelphia.

“It’s just a baseball game,” Iglesias said. “Guys on this team have faced him, I’ve faced him. It’s just a baseball game and we’re very happy and I think we’re very blessed to have a baseball game tonight, and that’s how we took it.”

The Orioles will hold a moment of silence before first pitch for members of the organization’s family who passed away. Baltimore superfan Mo Gaba succumbed to cancer last night at age 14, the close of a valiant fight that inspired the team and the community.

Hyde wore his “Mo Strong” T-shirt during his Zoom session. Players flooded Twitter last night with their photos and condolences.

“We’re extremely sad to hear the news about Mo from yesterday,” Hyde said. “I’ve only been here a year, but I understand how close some of our players were to him, how much he meant to this organization. I know the relationship he had with Trey (Mancini), as well as others, and this is just a really tough day for everybody here. We felt like he was a part of the team, and just my condolences and heart go out to his family and friends.

“Like I said, he meant a lot to a lot of people here.”

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