Chris Davis’ first at-bat of the 2019 season ended like so many have in seasons past, with the Baltimore Orioles slugger failing to make contact with the ball and going down on strikes. The maligned first baseman whiffed to end the second inning of Thursday afternoon’s season-opening game against the New York Yankees, which the Orioles went on to lose 7-2.
Steve Kranz watched the action, or lack thereof, from a high-top chair near the bar at Buffalo Wild Wings in Westminster, where some 25 baseball fans turned out to catch their team’s 2019 debut after enduring a dreadful 2018. Kranz made sure to take advantage of Opening Day as best he could — with a midday beer and a good view of a big-screen TV.
“It’s pretty much a tradition,” said Kranz, 61, a Westminster resident. “I come, if I can. If I can get away from work. If Opening Day is an early afternoon game, I like to take the afternoon off. Even if they lose, it’s more fun to be here than at work.”
Kranz sported a gray baseball jersey with "Orioles” emblazoned in bright orange, and he wasn’t alone in showing off his team’s colors around the bar area of the restaurant. The mood wasn’t exactly vibrant, though, with the Orioles trailing the Yankees 3-0 before the end of the first inning.
Kranz seemed resigned to the notion of the Orioles being a last-place team for the foreseeable future. Baltimore endured its worst season in franchise history in 2018, posting a 47-115 record. Only one other team since World War II finished more than 60 games out of first place in its division.
Davis, coming off one of the more miserable seasons in big-league history by an everyday player, is already in the crosshairs for fans such as Kranz, who tried to keep his cool when talking about another failed at-bat.
“He … strikes out with this lame-ass swing. I was like, come on man!” Kranz said about Davis’ second-inning plate appearance. “That kind of stuff makes it hard to sort of stay into it.”
Kranz said he used to go to numerous Orioles games each year at Camden Yards but he will pick and choose when to attend in 2019. The Orioles have their home opener on April 4 against the Yankees.
“I was a season ticket-holder until this past season. Had a 13-game plan. Two tickets, 13 games for probably 10 years, 15 years,” he said. “After last season, it was kind of hard to justify putting a thousand bucks out at the beginning of the season when you can basically get any seat quality you want in the stadium the day of the game.”
Finksburg resident Robbie Mathias was one of just a handful of patrons who picked The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in Westminster as a viewing spot for Opening Day. The former Liberty High School baseball player credited a little luck in being able to grab a barstool and catch the game — he’s off work Thursdays and Fridays, he said.
Mathias, 31, was trying to enjoy an adult beverage and talk a little baseball while Andrew Cashner, the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, had his hands full in the first inning. Yankees designated hitter Luke Voit launched a three-run home run to deep center field.
“Well, there goes the first one,” Mathias said to no one in particular.
Still, Mathias said he’s intrigued with the ballclub’s new direction. Even if he can’t quite come up with who its regulars will be.
“There was a guy sitting across the bar and I said, ‘Can you name [all] nine starters today?’” Mathias said. “He was like, ‘Nope!’ I said, ‘Neither can I.’”
The idea of a successful season may seem far-fetched. But local fans enjoy Opening Day — an unofficial holiday to ring in a new baseball year.
Even if their team likely won’t be very good.
“Baseball for the sake it is always going to be fun for me, and for a lot of people,” Kranz said. “But to invest a lot of emotion in the team, there needs to be a few wins every now and then.”
Those wins might be precious, but there are fans who will watch.
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“I’ll be here,” Mathias said. “Unfortunately, I’ll be here.”