We all know Opening Day at Camden Yards is special.
Well, it’s even more special if it’s your first Opening Day in a major league park.
And especially if you are, well, in a big league uniform during the festivities.
I think sometimes we forget that the guys who play for the Orioles haven’t necessarily been around this atmosphere all of their lives.
Take right-hander Tyler Wilson, the 26-year-old right-hander from Virginia who pitched in nine games for the Orioles last year.
He’s never been to an Opening Day in a big league park before. Not as a fan or a player.
“Never,” he said. “I’ve seen all the highlights and stuff that you guys report and I’ve looked at in on-line and I was at ones in the minor leagues obviously. But this would be the first time I’ve been a part of a big league one.”
And one word to describe Wilson’s feelings:
Unless things go wrong for starter Chris Tillman, Wilson isn’t expected to pitch Monday. He likely will start Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays – though that hasn’t been announced yet.
But Wilson will have to run down the orange carpet from center field in pre-game ceremonies, and, yeah, he’s a little nervous about that.
“That’s what everybody talks about – pick your feet up, knees high. Don’t embarrass the club type thing,” Wilson said. “But other than that everybody just said to enjoy it because you only have your first Opening Day once. And I’m looking forward to it.”
How quickly have things changed for Wilson?
Two years ago, he was slated to pitch against the Orioles in an exhibition game in Norfolk right before the 2014 season started. Orioles manager Buck Showalter admits that Wilson was selected over other Orioles’ farmhands because he had good control and worked fast – meaning the big league players he was facing wouldn’t get hurt, and the Orioles could get back to Baltimore faster.
Now Wilson could be a viable member of the rotation.
“It’s a pretty cool story. And when Showalter was asked about Wilson on Monday, he said this:
“He’s just one of those guys that have overachieved in other people’s minds. He just figures things out. You see him give up a couple runs and all the sudden you see him step back, to back of the mound. He just figures out a way to keep his team engaged. He is a very easy guy to trust. He is athletic. He is probably one of our best conditioned guys. He fields his position. He holds runners. He understands scouting reports. He understands who he is and who he isn’t. And he never quits firing. He’s not going to back off to the competition. He’s not gonna get that wow factor when he sees a certain guy in the batter’s box. He looks at is an opportunity to do the same thing he’s been doing since the 10th grade, at every stop. He’s done nothing but been a winning pitcher wherever he has gone. So that’s how you force somebody’s hand to say, ‘Let’s see if he can do it at the next level.’ There’s not another level. There’s not another one to go to.”