The firsts are out of the way.
The first Orioles exhibition game. The first standing ovation for Trey Mancini in his first at-bat since March 2, 2020. His first hit immediately after the emotional scene.
The first defensive lapses. The first reminder in 2021 that Yusniel Diaz, who hit a two run homer off former Oriole Carson Fulmer in the sixth, is poised to make his debut later in the summer.
The first loss and overreactions from fans.
Mancini lined a single into center field and struck out swinging in his two plate appearances before Ryan Ripken replaced him at first base. Two runs scored on his throwing error in the top of the first inning.
The Orioles lost to the Pirates 6-4 in a sloppy affair, at Ed Smith Stadium, but the result was secondary.
Both dugouts broke out in applause as Mancini stepped out of the batter’s box and removed his helmet in appreciation. Plate umpire Will Little and the Pirates battery allowed the moment to play out.
“All day just kind of been running through the last year and everything that me and Sara (Perlman) and my family have been through,” said Mancini, who had his girlfriend, parents, aunt, uncle and cousins in the stands. “It’s almost a year to the day since I was last in a game, so definitely was a moment where I felt like it kind of came full circle a little bit.
“I thought more about everything that happened today than I have in a long time. I’ve mostly tried in a lot of ways to move on and not think too much about last year, but I ran through all the tough days that we had. I really tried to appreciate and cherish today and I definitely did that.”
Mancini said the first at-bat was “amazing” and he “almost teared up” as he saw the reaction from both teams.
“It meant the world to me,” he said. “It was a really, really cool moment and one of my favorite moments of my baseball career. I think it was a huge day for me personally, getting back in a game. Another kind of milestone I can check off here.”
Said manager Brandon Hyde: “Really cool, really cool. So hats off to all the fans that were here recognizing and acknowledging Trey, as well as the Pirates, (manager) Derek Shelton and the boys over there, and Chad Kuhl and Tony Wolters behind the plate giving him a little bit of time and recognizing that it was a special moment for Trey. It was a goosebumps moment. I thought it was just a real class act by the Pirates and the fans.”
Freddy Galvis and Diaz walked to open the bottom of the second inning, but the Orioles couldn’t score off reliever Wil Crowe.
Gregory Polanco hit a two-run homer off Eric Hanhold in the third after Galvis’ error. Mancini started a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.
Todd Frazier hit a solo home run off Isaac Mattson in the fifth. Marcos Diplán retired the side in order in the sixth on three fly balls. Conner Greene struck out two while retiring the side in order in the seventh and Spenser Watkins registered a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout.
“I thought Conner Greene threw the ball exceptional, and Watkins there at the end, too,” Hyde said. “I thought the last two innings our guys really pounded the strike zone. I thought we had a really tough time throwing strikes the majority of the day, the majority of our pitchers, a lot of deep counts. Had a couple rollover innings because they couldn’t get through innings because of the pitch count, so that’s disappointing. But I thought the two guys that threw the last couple innings did a nice job of working ahead, staying ahead and getting early swings.”
A misplayed Austin Wynns popup let a run score in the seventh and reduced the lead to 6-4.
Diaz crushed a Fulmer pitch, launching it far beyond the left field fence.
“Diaz has got big power,” Hyde said. “Just watch him take batting practice. He hits the ball hard to all fields. I don’t know if that was a slider or two-seamer, but he got the barrel out in front and showed what he can do to the baseball when he catches it out in front.
“I like the way D plays. He plays hard, he swings the bat aggressively and it was a good day for him.”
The Grapefruit League opener was rough around the edges, and it helped that multiple innings were halted due to pitch counts.
Shortening it to eight innings also seemed like a blessing.
Chris Davis struck out and reached on an error that scored a run in the third. And, yes, he’s still batting from the left side of the plate. His adjustments aren’t that extreme.
The game drew 1,705 fans, a sellout under 2021 restrictions.
“It was great to have the fans there, there’s no doubt about it,” Hyde said. “It was unusual for fans, I think just the masks, we’re just not used to everybody in masks, but I thought the energy was great in the crowd. I thought people were really looking forward to watching baseball and I just thought it was a really good environment. A lot different than last summer and so it was fun to see everybody out there.”
Note: Vi Ripken, the mother of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and former infielder Billy Ripken, and Ryan’s grandmother, passed away Friday night. A spokesman for the family confirmed the news.
Cal Ripken Sr. died in March 1999 after a long battle with cancer. Vi would have celebrated her 83rd birthday yesterday.
Condolences to the entire Ripken family, which also includes Vi’s son Fred and daughter Ellie.