Crowd opens up to Sosa

Slugger receives standing ovation, signs autographs, has two singles

April 05, 2005|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Sammy Sosa went out of his way to win over the Orioles' crowd yesterday. It wasn't just his two singles or his nifty catch in right-center, either.

You could tell the Orioles' newest slugger was eager to ignite a new love affair right from the start. In the top of the first inning, he bolted from the dugout and sprinted hard - head down - toward his position in right field.

Twice en route he reacted to fans by pointing toward the seats in foul territory. When he got to right field, he made a hard left and kept sprinting to the bleacher seats in center.

Fans applauded his every step.

As new starts go, the Orioles' 4-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards was good for the team and for Sosa.

"I feel comfortable," Sosa said. "I feel like this is my house. I feel like I have been here before. I was prepared for this moment. The support I got from the fans today was incredible."

Orioles fans had been eagerly awaiting this moment since the Feb. 2 trade that brought Sosa from the Chicago Cubs for Jerry Hairston and two minor leaguers.

When Sosa came to the plate in the bottom of the first, the announced sellout crowd of 48,271 - there were plenty of empty seats in the upper deck - gave him a standing ovation.

It was reminiscent of a year ago, when Javy Lopez homered in his Orioles debut and received a standing ovation. Lopez acknowledged the difference.

"The crowd went nuts when I hit the home run; they went nuts when he went to bat," Lopez said, grinning.

"They definitely look very excited by having Sammy here."

Moments after batting practice and a 10-minute pre-game session with the media, Sosa sat atop the brick wall just beyond first base, propped his right leg on the concrete and signed autographs for fans. He signed for 10 minutes, then went to the outfield.

Sosa, whose 574 home runs rank seventh all time, didn't get No. 575 yesterday. But he crushed the ball twice, once for a single and another time for a grounder to short that first was ruled a single and then changed to an error.

He also blooped a single in front of A's left fielder Eric Byrnes, who was playing very deep, and got jammed on a pop-up.

Sosa was aggressive running the bases, too. After he helped set up a third-inning run with a single, he attempted to score from second when A's shortstop Bobby Crosby booted Jay Gibbons' grounder, but he was thrown out easily.

He also made a nice running catch in right field, looking back into the sun, in the sixth inning to rob Nick Swisher. That was one batter after Marco Scutaro doubled off the right-field wall.

"You've pretty much got to make adjustments in every park you play in," Sosa said. "I've got to get used to it [playing the right-field scoreboard]."

And though Oakland appeared to have trouble with the sun at times, Sosa didn't appear to have any problems.

"Today it was tough," he said. "I pretty much had the same situation in Chicago before, so I played even better today because I was prepared for that."

He was also prepared for the inevitable Cubs questions. Even though he was watching the Cubs play on the clubhouse television right after the game, Chicago was one place he wouldn't go yesterday.

"That place is closed," Sosa said.

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