Brandon Yu is no stranger to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Perry Hall native and 2017 Baltimore County Pitcher of the Year at Perry Hall High School grew up within 20 miles of the Orioles’ home park.
Although he can’t recall attending his first big league game, Yu remembers spending countless summer days watching his hometown team play.
The vantage point changes this weekend for Yu, a freshman pitcher and the only Maryland native on the U.S. Naval Academy’s roster,
As Navy prepares for a doubleheader Sunday against the United States Military Academy (Army) at Camden Yards, Yu will get the opportunity to suit up in the same clubhouse as his favorite player, Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones.
“It’s definitely cool to take a step back and realize that this is the park that I’ve been coming to my whole life to watch my favorite players play – and being able to get a chance to be there is just pretty special,” Yu said.
Playing a televised game (CBS Sports Network) in a big league stadium for the first time is an exciting experience for any player. However, it will take more than some TV time at Camden Yards to distract Navy from a conference game against the arch-rival Black Knights.
“Obviously, it’s a business trip, and we’re going there to get the win,” Yu said.
Navy Head Coach Paul Kostacopoulos isn’t concerned about his team getting blinded by the bright lights looming over Camden Yards. Navy (17-5 overall, 3-1 conference) is a perennial conference title contender and is currently the only Patriot League team with a winning record.
“Our guys are pretty good at processing different surroundings and environments and understanding what’s necessary to do in that particular moment,” Kostacopoulos said. “Army’s always going to bring that heightened sense of awareness and importance of the game. I think having them as an opponent mitigates the circumstances – if you will – of playing in a major league ballpark.”
Navy senior right fielder Stephen Born might have the toughest adjustment of any player or coach. Born (pictured above) will have to contend with the 21-foot high and 100-foot wide scoreboard lurking behind him in right field. The scoreboard and troublesome corner in foul territory have been known to give some big leaguers trouble. Yet to receive any advice on how to play balls in right field, Born will have to do some research of his own.
“It is kind of a weird configuration out there, especially with the fence a little higher, and there are some tricky corners,” Born said. “I’m going to have to look online a little bit to see how some of the other outfielders have played it. But it should be interesting.”
Born isn’t afraid of the big moments. In the 2016 Patriot League Championship series against the College of Holy Cross, Born delivered an extra-inning, walkoff home run to secure the first game and help deliver Navy’s second Patriot League title in six years.
As he recalled some of Camden Yards’ greatest moments, Born was in awe but not intimidated by the big stage. He carries himself with the same controlled enthusiasm that made him a championship hero.
“It’s an extreme privilege for us,” Born said. “It definitely makes me think about everything that has happened on that field and all the great moments – like Cal Ripken Jr., setting the record for consecutive games played. It just makes you think about all the awesome stuff that’s happened (at Camden Yards).”
Kostacopoulos and his players understand the significance of playing at Camden Yards. However, competing in a big league park pales in comparison to the deep-rooted tradition of Army versus Navy. The game could be played in front of 50,000 people or nobody; it wouldn’t detract from what is arguably the fiercest rivalry in college sports.
All-time in the history of the Army-Navy series dating back to 1901, the Midshipmen lead the Black Knights, 120-109. Navy will look to extend its series lead this Sunday.
Although most people are familiar with the Army-Navy football rivalry, many individuals don’t get the chance to see the two schools do battle off the gridiron. According to Kostacopoulos, playing at Camden Yards will only brighten the spotlight on the historic rivalry.
“We get to showcase and show people that we do have a good brand of baseball (at Navy),” Kostacopoulos said. “It definitely has its importance, and it’s also a great opportunity for anybody to witness an Army-Navy competition because I don’t care what the competition is – what the sport is – when Army and Navy get together there’s so many unique things that go into these two institutions playing.”
Despite Winter Storm Toby’s best efforts, first pitch is still slated for 11 a.m. on Sunday. The second game of the doubleheader is expected to start approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Tickets are $10 for general admission access to lower-level seating. The proceeds from the event will go to both the Fisher House Foundation and the Naval Academy Athletic Association.
Sunday’s doubleheader won’t be the last time Army and Navy meet at a big league park this season. The final three games of the series will be on the weekend of April 20-21. The April 20 game will be hosted by the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Top Performers of the Week
Nick Roberti, RHP, Washington College
Junior/New Fairfield, Conn.
Roberti was named the Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Week after throwing the fifteenth no-hitter in conference history against Bethany College. Roberti struck out four batters and retired the last 13 he faced; Bethany’s only baserunners reached on errors. Roberti’s no-no is the first Shoremen no-hitter in six years. Shane Mattingly and Matt Christopher tossed a combined no-hitter against the City College of New York in 2012.
Nate Luscombe, RHP, Hood College
Luscombe was named MAC Commonwealth Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season. He pitched a five-hit, complete-game shutout in the conference opener against Messiah College. Luscombe struck out 10 batters and did not allow an extra-base hit on his way to his third win and second complete game of the season.
Preston Betz, RHP, Johns Hopkins University
Betz struck out a career-high 13 batters in a complete-game shutout victory over Lakeland University. His dominance was on full display as Betz notched at least one strikeout in every inning. Allowing no walks and only three hits, Betz cruised to his second win of the season.
University of Maryland, Eastern Shore pitcher Evan Bertone threw the first complete game shutout for the Hawks since 2015, defeating Coppin State by a 1-0 score. He earned a MEAC Co-Pitcher of the Week selection. … Navy’s Born was named as one of the Premier Sports Management group’s 30 candidates for the 2018 Senior CLASS Baseball Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division 1 senior and have notable achievements in the community, classroom and field. … Navy’s trio of Born, Sean Kamhoot and Jared Leins swept the awards for Patriot League Player, Pitcher and Rookie of the Week. … Hood continues to gain national attention following its 15-1 start. The Blazers received votes for the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball and D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 25 polls.
Matchup to watch
Weather permitting, Hood faces its toughest test of the season in a three-game series against conference rival Stevenson University starting today. Hood and Stevenson are tied in the conference standings at 2-1. Although Hood is off to its best start in school history, beating Stevenson is essential if the Blazers hope to make the postseason for the first time.