For seven young Orioles, first Opening Day's a big deal

April 07, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — — Orioles rookie left-hander Brian Matusz watched the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees stack the baselines during introductions for Sunday's nationally televised major league baseball opener and immediately called fellow starter Jeremy Guthrie.

"Guthrie, do they do that for Opening Day for everyone?" Matusz asked about the introductions. "Is that how it works?"

When he was told that, yes, he would get to stand along the baseline during the club's season opener at Tropicana Field on Tuesday and the home opener Friday at Camden Yards and be introduced to the crowd, the rookie was pumped.

"That's awesome," Matusz said. "I can't wait to run out there."

Matusz, who started eight major league games last season, is one of two Orioles - along with catcher Craig Tatum - to be classified as rookies this season.

But there are seven Orioles, more than a quarter of the 25-man roster, who had never participated in a big league Opening Day before Tuesday. They are Matusz, Tatum, catcher Matt Wieters, outfielder Nolan Reimold, and pitchers Brad Bergesen, Jason Berken and David Hernandez.

"It surprised me that we have seven guys, because it feels like we have all been together for so long," Matusz said. "We have all been here, we've been through a lot, but to say that this is all of our first Opening Days, wow, that's a lot of guys."

Wieters, who made his debut May 29 last season, had never been to a big league Opening Day in his life. On Tuesday, he was the starting catcher.

"Opening Day is something you watch as a kid," Wieters said. "You just get so excited that baseball has started and you get even more excited to be playing on Opening Day in the big leagues. You get even a little more up for it."

Tatum, who played 26 games for the Cincinnati Reds in the second half of last season, didn't know until last week that he would make the Orioles' major league roster. As Wieters' backup, Tatum has no idea when he'll get into a game. But he has already achieved part of the thrill.

"To be here when it starts is a new experience, and it is something I have for the rest of my life," Tatum said. "I was on an Opening Day roster."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said there is special significance to all seven celebrating Opening Day together. All but Tatum were drafted by the Orioles.

"It is a new page and a new direction for the franchise," Trembley said. "It is going to be guys who come up through the system, and it is going to be guys that all play together and move up together and have long careers together. I think it is the way to go and the only way you are going to be successful."

And they are enjoying the ride.

"Guthrie always makes fun of me because I always say, 'This is the best day of my life,' " Matusz said. "Well, I told him today, 'This is the best day of my life.' I am on the Opening Day roster for a major league team."

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