I don’t think anyone expected the Orioles and their fans to ignore the return of Matt Wieters, but it was nice to see so many people rise and applaud when he came to the plate in the third inning of the Orioles’ eventual 6-4 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Maybe Wieters, now with the Nationals, didn’t become “Joe Mauer With Power” for the Orioles. But he was a really important piece of the club’s resurgence. In the eight seasons he was with the club, it went from laughingstock to consistent contender.
And Wieters and his wife became a big part of the Baltimore community. That was obvious with the standing ovation.
“It was great. It was a good crowd, as always, here. I was very appreciative,” he said “I wish we could’ve been on the winning side of the scoreboard, but I appreciate the hand. And the ovation, however good it was, was not going to change how good of a time I (had) being here.”
One Wieters moment that may have been lost Monday occurred during the break in between the top and bottom of the first inning.
While John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” song played over the Camden Yards loudspeaker, the Orioles showed a video montage of Wieters’ highlights on the stadium’s large video scoreboard while the smaller screen showed Wieters crouched at home plate while catching Gio Gonzalez’s warm-up pitches.
“It’s a tug. Very classy thing the organization did there with the welcome back,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Had to swallow hard. I think we all did.”
As the crowd cheered, Gonzalez attempted to stall so Wieters could watch the tribute, but the catcher wouldn’t have any of it. He kept twirling his right hand, to tell Gonzalez to continue to warm up.
It was a classic Wieters’ move. For all the fanfare he received throughout his career – especially in the beginning – he always was about the game first. And he didn’t want his return to affect his starting pitcher (incidentally, Gonzalez allowed four runs on three homers in the first), so Wieters dismissed the tribute because he had a job to do.
Wieters acknowledged the crowd later during the standing ovation in the third. He stepped out of the batter’s box and waved quickly to each side of the stadium while his former batterymate, Kevin Gausman, walked to the back of the mound, bent down to re-tie his shoe and allow Wieters some time to soak in the moment.
“They gave him a great reception, as I think they should,” Gausman said. “That’s (not) the first (time) I’ve been a part of something like that. I actually pitched against Nick Markakis his first game back here (in 2015), too. I’ve been able to kind of be a part of some cool things in my short major league career. I thought it was great. Great class by the fans. Obviously, he had a lot to do with bringing our team back to expecting winning seasons.”
Mancini homers on his T-shirt day
Rookie Trey Mancini hit a towering homer in the first inning Monday – a shot that nearly cleared both bullpens in left center. He said he knew it was gone as soon as he hit it.
Anyone with eyes did, too.
“That’s probably as good as I can hit one,” Mancini said. “I was looking for a fastball somewhere over the plate and he left it a little more middle than he intended to. And, luckily, I got a hold of it.”
He got a hold of it on the night the Orioles gave out Mancini T-shirts. But it’s not like the rookie was going to puff out his chest after that blast.
“Wade Miley recommended that I wear the T-shirt under my jersey and, if I hit a home run or something, rip my jersey open,” Mancini said. “And I said, ‘There’s no shot I’m going to be doing that.”
2,000 games leaderboard
The Orioles provided the media Monday with some statistics about the first 2,000 games played at Camden Yards – Monday was the 2,001st.
Not surprisingly, Adam Jones is leading in a bunch of offensive categories at the stadium: RBIs (404), extra-base hits (262), total bases (1,270) and is tied with Cal Ripken Jr. for most game-winning RBIs (51). Jones is also two homers away from tying leader Rafael Palmeiro (122).
Brady Anderson has played the most games at Camden Yards – 700 – but the factoid that really surprised me: The pitcher that has appeared in the most games by an Oriole at the 25-year-old stadium is reliever B.J. Ryan.
You could have won a beer off me with that bet.