Fans make ballpark feel like home again


Baltimore, you did yourself proud Monday. You took your ballpark back. You squeezed the New York contingent out, then you drowned it out. You made Camden Yards look and sound and feel like the old days, when this was the destination not only for a nice vacation, but also for quality baseball. Heck, you even kept the rain away.

You drove your Orioles to victory over the Yankees on an Opening Day that will be remembered for a long time, no matter what direction the team takes.

In fact, you might have stolen that win for your team. The assistance was a little over the top, but hey, all's fair.

Put the Jeffrey Maier impersonation aside for a moment. As it turns out, Cesar Izturis wasn't immediately familiar with that epic moment in Orioles history from 13 seasons ago. Meanwhile, the fans in the front row of the left-field stands Monday have their version of Izturis' eighth-inning, game-breaking home run, and they're sticking to it.

Even without that likely instance of karma, Izturis could tell that what transpired at his new home ballpark was out of the ordinary, even for an Opening Day.

"Oh yeah, that's how it goes - the Yankees have fans everywhere," he said after the 10-5 win. "But I didn't hear many Yankees fans here today. We heard our fans. We're thankful to the fans for being there. They really helped us play."

It never seems like too much to ask, but it is always too much to expect - so the Orioles, no matter how long they've been on the team, savored it. "Those are Orioles fans," manager Dave Trembley said with a grin as he stood in his office. "They were there for us. Now, we've got to be there for them."

The fans were definitely there on the wall for them. Wanted them on that wall, needed them on that wall. At least according to the replays.

But again, set that aside. Up to an hour before the first pitch, the signs were not encouraging, as the usual pocket of Yankees fans perched over the visiting dugout screamed for every player who walked nearby, while orange-clad fans scowled all around them.

By pre-game introductions, though, when the first tidal wave of boos washed over Mark Teixeira, the battle was over. That went on all day, of course, peaking with his eighth-inning, rally-squashing groundout. But it was more than that. It was the thunder that rolled for every Oriole introduced, that ensued on Adam Jones' RBI triple, on Melvin Mora's diving stop on Cody Ransom, on the assortment of tiny bites that finally sank CC Sabathia.

But it also was the constant abuse poured onto Sabathia, the scattered cheers for Derek Jeter that got instantly shouted down, and the "Hip-hip-Jorge" chants that never gained momentum.

Finally, it was the moment of deja vu in left, with Chris Velona, impossible to miss in his orange T-shirt over a long-sleeved white shirt, interrupting Damon's attempt at Izturis' shot. No, not deja vu, witnesses swore: "He was over the wall, definitely over the wall," Kyle Koons, of Chambersburg, Pa., sitting a row back, insisted of Damon. "It wasn't anything like New York in '96."

Maybe, maybe not. But it also wasn't anything like Camden Yards during this decade, not like all the other times New York came in and sold the place out and made it sound like Yankee Stadium South. This time, it really was Oriole Park.

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