Carroll residents excited about being back at Camden Yards

Tom Walker stood behind home plate with his 13-year-old son Jacob as the Toronto Blue Jays took batting practice preparing for their matchup against the Orioles early Friday afternoon. Though the two of them have been to an Orioles home game before — most recently during the playoffs last season — this was the first time they had been to the team's home opener.

"I'd love to make this a tradition, and I'm sure [Jacob] would too," Walker said.


Jacob said that though the playoff games were exciting, Opening Day might be better because it marks the beginning of a potentially promising season.

Kathy and Mark Smith, a Littlestown, Pa., couple, echoed the Walkers' sentiments and said on Opening Day there is still the hope of being a contender in the American League East.

"Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, during the first home game, with all the excitement and the hopes, it's just different," Mark Smith said. "I don't know how to explain it."

One fan in particular was there for the people. Before every game, Clinton Griggs, otherwise known as Captain O, dresses for war, donning a black and orange gladiator's uniform. His trademark helmet is a replica of the same that Terrell Suggs, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, wore before their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in September.

Griggs, of Hampstead, assumed his alter ego in 2004 but truly accepted his role as crowd instigator in 2011.

By the final game of the season that year, the Orioles were almost 30 games out of first place in the A.L. East and going up against the Boston Red Sox, who would make the playoffs if they won.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Orioles scored two runs to win, and the Red Sox were sent home to watch the playoffs from their couches.

The Orioles have since been consistent contenders for the A.L. East crown, and Griggs has attended every home opener since.

"It's the community around baseball that I really like," he said. "I love the fact that on Opening Day I'm seeing people I haven't seen since last year."

Whether it was for the atmosphere, the crowds of O's fans, or a passion for America's pastime, an announced 45,936 fans visited Camden Yards on Friday to witness the home opener, which ended in a 12-5 win for the Blue Jays.

The frenzy surrounding Opening Day in Baltimore has waxed and waned over the years, but it was at its peak during the very first home opener in 1954, said Vince Bagli, a former sports anchor who covered the Orioles.

"The day of the home opener, April 15, 1954, was the most impressive Opening Day," Bagli said.

Bagli, who was born and raised in Baltimore but now lives in Finksburg, said that day was "not totally unlike" Friday. As the team took the field, the sun finally broke through the clouds, he said, and it seemed to spark a fire in the Orioles, who defeated the Chicago White Sox 3-1.

"It's always better to win the home opener because people will come back, you hope," Bagli said. "Over the years, the team has had a lot of support, and this regime with [General Manager Dan] Duquette and [Manager Buck] Showalter, [the Orioles] are terrific. Everybody's optimistic on Opening Day."


Bagli was the sportscaster for the Orioles for more than three decades and has been to almost every Orioles home opener since they moved to Baltimore in 1954, he said. Though he retired 20 years ago, the organization still sends him press passes before the start of every season, Bagli said.

"At the start, I used to be one of the kids; now I'm the oldest guy in the press box," he said. "The fact is I'm a fan, and I've liked it forever. I've been pretty lucky, and God's given me a pretty good run."

Regardless of whether the fan can remember the Orioles' very first home opener, like Bagli, or is enjoying his or her first, like Jacob Walker, those who made the trip to Opening Day at Camden Yards were there because of their love of the game.

"When you can go to these important games that are big marks in the season, it's a whole different level of awesome," Jacob Walker said.