BOSTON—About five hours before Thursday’s opener was scheduled to start, I read an alert on my phone from ESPN saying that the Orioles-Red Sox game had been postponed. Since it was April 1st, I thought it was a joke and, to cover myself, tweeted: “ESPN says #Orioles #RedSox postponed.”
Quickly, I found out it was correct, and the Orioles would have to wait through a raw, unpleasant day without rain in the afternoon. Instead, the Orioles and Red Sox are scheduled to play their opener at 2:10 p.m. on Friday at Fenway Park.
The only news of the day came when the team released its 26-man roster. Relief pitcher Shawn Armstrong was on the paternity list. His wife gave birth to a son on Thursday.
How long Armstrong will be absent is unknown. He must miss one game, but no more than three. Armstrong’s absence allows relievers Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate to be on the Opening Day roster.
The biggest stories around baseball on Opening Day, which featured 13 games, was the return of fans, and the postponement of at least the first two games of the New York Mets-Washington Nationals series because of a Covid-19 outbreak on the Nationals. It was a reminder that we’re still dealing with a pandemic.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said the team is following Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols again in 2021. Some Oriole players, and Hyde, have gotten the vaccine. Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said his goal is to have everyone in the organization vaccinated.
Last year was unique because of the pandemic, with fans not being allowed to attend games. It still will be different to see Fenway Park at only 12 percent capacity, about 5,000 fans, but not nearly as disconcerting as it was to see cardboard cutouts and hear piped-in crowd noise last year.
It was strange seeing Boston, known for its massive tieups and drivers without patience, traffic-free just as it was unnerving to see New York last September with few people on the streets.
Next Thursday, presumably with better weather, the Orioles will play before about 11,000 fans on Opening Day, 25 percent capacity for Camden Yards. Fans eager to see baseball will have to adjust to not sitting in their accustomed seats and not having those impromptu baseball discussions with people in nearby seats. Fans will be seated in group pods and must wear masks except when eating and drinking.
There have been some memorable Opening Days in Baltimore. For many years, when there was no baseball in Washington, the Orioles opened at home nearly every year.
In 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. hit his first major league home run and shook his father’s hand as he rounded third base. Cal Senior was long the team’s third base coach. In 2003, it snowed.
But the most special opener came in 1992 when Oriole Park opened to critical acclaim, ushering in an era of exciting new stadiums around baseball.
Friday’s opener at Fenway will feature many new Oriole faces and high hopes. And the weather shouldn’t be an issue.