Baseball is Back!
Apr 04, 2013 07:42PM ● Published by Anonymous
The bright sunshine. The 60 degree weather. The crack of the bat. The smell of the hot dogs and peanuts. The sound of a 95 mph fastball from your ace pitcher smacking the catcher’s mitt and knowing the batter didn’t have a chance. All senses intensify with the prospects of a fresh start for your team.
This week, baseball has taken precedence in D.C. and Baltimore.
On South Capitol Street, the defending NL East Champions gave the regular season record crowd of 45,274 their money’s worth.
With no innings limit this season, Stephen Strasburg pitched efficiently against a hapless Miami Marlins lineup. The 24-year-old fireballer pitched hurled only 80 pitches, 52 of which were strikes, in seven innings and allowed just three hits and no runs.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old phenom Bryce Harper wowed the home crowd with two blasts over the right field wall in his first two at-bats. His first at-bat only required two pitches, sending a 73 mph curveball deep. He showed more patience in his second at-bat, waiting until a 3-2 count and the sixth pitch to mimic his first home run on an 85 mph slider.
Harper also displayed his rocket arm in the seventh inning when he threw a frozen rope from left field to home plate and cut off Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, which ended up as an inning-ending double play with Placido Polanco getting caught in a rundown on the same play.
This Opening Day was unique for many reasons.
“It was unlike any Opening Day since 2005,” Washington Post sports blogger Dan Steinberg said. “There is a level of excitement surrounding baseball that can't touch anything since I started blogging in the fall of 2006. Well, more than half of ‘experts’ are predicting the Nats to go to the World Series, and D.C., like most cities, adores winners and it was nice out and Strasburg was pitching and people were blowing off work. So the mood was joy and satisfaction and happiness.”
The Nats followed up their opening performance with another shutout, this one courtesy of 2012 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez, who allowed only two hits in six innings pitched and even belted out his second career home run to propel the Nats to a 3-0 win.
Meanwhile, the Orioles got off to a hot start by taking down the Tampa Bay Rays 7-4 in their opening game Tuesday afternoon. Matt Wieters started off the day with a two-run home run in the first inning to give Baltimore a 2-0 lead that lasted three and a half innings. The Rays took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth until Baltimore went on a tear and posted five runs in the seventh.
Adam Jones hit the go-ahead double in the seventh, capping off a banner day at the plate, leading the O’s with three hits in five plate appearances. Chris Davis added icing on the cake with a three-run home run.
The O’s started off hot in game two of their series against Tampa Bay with Davis hammering another three-run home run in the first inning. The O’s gave up their lead but were able to tie the game in the top of the ninth after Fernando Rodney suffered a rare blown save. However the Rays came out on top 8-7 with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.
The Orioles will celebrate their 2013 home opener at picturesque Camden Yards Friday at 3:05 p.m. against the Minnesota Twins.
Grant Paulsen, the Redskins beat writer for 106.7 The Fan who also hosts shows on MLB Network Radio, is an avid Orioles fan and has attended 14 Opening Day games at Camden Yards.
For Paulsen, positive vibes abound when fans of the orange and black gather for the first game at the 21-year-old stadium.
“There’s always a feeling of optimism and excitement about the upcoming season and the fact that the summer is right around the corner,” Paulsen said. “Recently and obviously this season, the feeling at the ballpark is going to change because there is hope again and there is expectation that the team can be really good.”
“Opening Day in baseball is a holiday. I don’t think you can say that about any other sport,” he said. “It’s not just the beginning of a season for your team, it’s a constant wave of enjoyment for the sport. There’s just something romantic about Opening Day in baseball. Historically, it signifies more than the game. To me it signifies spring has arrived and summer was right around the corner.”
What makes Baltimore so special compared to other cities when it comes to Opening Day baseball? The aesthetics play a big role.
“Our scenery,” Paulsen said. “The fact that we have arguably the most gorgeous ballpark in baseball. There’s a couple in the vicinity in my opinion: PNC Park (in Pittsburgh) [and] AT&T [Park] in San Francisco. You go to most ballparks, they’re kind of cookie-cutter. [Camden Yards] turned 20 last year and still might as well be two years old.”