Five-year-old Connor Schoenwetter might have been considered the luckiest kid in Camden Yards at Friday's Orioles' season opener.
After all, the Cockeysville youngster was picked by Orioles staff to be introduced to the sellout crowd as the "10th man" on the team's lineup, and ran onto the field in a game jersey as his name echoed through the park.
As fans cheered, he raced down the huge orange runway — "I had my super fastest shoes on," Connor said — slapping hands with players and the Oriole Bird.
Lucky, yes. But for this kindergarten student at Immaculate Conception School in Towson, luck actually started the night before, when he and his older brother Jack, 7, flipped a coin to see who would go with their dad to Opening Day, and who would go to Monday's night game between the Orioles and the Yankees.
Connor won Opening Day.
And not only did he steal the show during the ceremonies, but officially opened the 2012 season when Orioles broadcaster Jim Hunter asked him to say those magic words, and Connor obliged:
"PLAY BALL!" he shouted into the microphone, to the roar of the crowd.
"It's such an amazing thing," said Connor's dad, Patrick Schoenwetter. "It was so exciting. It's unbelievable."
Patrick Schoenwetter was already excited to bring Connor to his first-ever Opening Day. They started early from his office at Deloitte and Touche, an accounting firm downtown. The two had lunch, then headed over to Oriole Park.
Strolling around the flag court before they made their way to their left-field seats, the two were approached by Orioles' public relations staffers.
"They asked Connor, and me, if he would feel comfortable going down on the field with the Orioles to start the game," his dad said. "Connor said, 'Sure.'
"I don't think he understood fully what was happening," Schoenwetter said. "I did."
Monica Barlow, the Orioles' director of public relations, said picking a fan to join the team for introductions is a way to acknowledge the fervent support the team receives.
"It is something we do every year on Opening Day, randomly picking a young fan from the ballpark to be the '10th man,' " she said.
They gave Connor a jersey, No. 10 — and told his dad he'd be able to keep it.
"It's going to be a little big on him," Patrick Schoenwetter said the staff fretted. "I told them, 'It's fine, just fine.' The staff was just great, so professional."
As game time approached, the two were escorted to the edge of the field where players were gathering to be introduced.
Patrick had to watch from home plate. But as he left the outfield, staffers were explaining to Connor what to do, and players were telling him, "You gotta run fast. You gotta run fast," his dad said.
He did. Wearing his bright No. 10 uniform, Connor sprinted down the track when his name was called.
His dad said he wasn't worried at all that Connor would be nervous or afraid. "He's kind of our entertainer," he said.
Indeed, on television and on the giant video screen, Connor looked like the cool one. Dad had other emotions.
"I tell you, there were tears of excitement in my eyes. I was just taking it all in," Schoenwetter said. "The stadium had such a feeling of excitement."
Connor got to meet one of his favorite Orioles, Matt Weiter, but missed his other, Jake Arrieta, who was in the bullpen warming up.
When it was done, they made their way back to their seats, and people stopped them on the concourse to tell Connor, "You did an awesome job out there."
The fame was just starting — Schoenwetter said his cell phone was burning up for the rest of the game from family and friends who saw Connor on TV.
"I was getting messages, my wife (Ann Marie) was getting messages, 'Was that Connor?!' " Patrick said. "It was pretty neat."
By the evening, Connor was playing guitar and basketball back at their home.
"He's been an Orioles fan forever; they both have," said Patrick Schoenwetter of his sons. "It's funny, he loves baseball, but he plays lacrosse and soccer."
The family also has a 9-month-old daughter, Katelyn. She may go to the games one day too, but right now, Patrick Schoenwetter is more worried about that Monday night game against the Yankees, when he'll go with his other son, Jack.
Connor got lunch, a jersey, got to run on the field with the team ... and got a win.
Schoenwetter laughed at the notion of sibling rivalry between the boys — "What am I going to do on Monday?"Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun