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Stoetzer: It wasn’t quite the same, but Orioles fans did their best on their Opening Day | COMMENTARY

The first Orioles home game for fans in more than 500 days had a little bit of everything.

There was enough pageantry to make it feel like a traditional Opening Day, even if the season started last week. A little more than 10,000 spectators counts as a sellout during COVID-19 times, and despite Camden Yards operating at 25% capacity there was a good bit of atmosphere.

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Fans came decked in team colors. They cheered for their favorite players, giving Trey Mancini the loudest ovation in his return to Baltimore after missing last season during his fight against stage 3 colon cancer.

Many of them stuck it out, too, despite the Orioles’ 7-3 loss to Boston. A rare loss at that, since Baltimore came into Thursday’s game having won 44 of 67 home openers in club history. But, a third straight defeat in home openers nonetheless.

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Still, the mask-covered enthusiasm was all around the ballpark.

Fans got a flyover, some fireworks, a few home runs, and a manager ejection. They enjoyed their peanuts and Crackerjacks in socially distant intervals. Not bad for supporters of a team given a 0.0% of making the playoffs by one popular baseball analysis website.

(No confirmation as to whether Dean Wormer runs the site.)

Some fans sitting behind the plate and in the lower level had difficulty keeping their masks and face coverings in the proper position, but Orioles staff members were quick to flash their white “Please Mask Up” signs to anyone that needed a tutorial.

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An usher holds a sign encouraging fans to wear a face mask to protect against COVID-19 during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Thursday, April 8, 2021, on Opening Day in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
An usher holds a sign encouraging fans to wear a face mask to protect against COVID-19 during the fifth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Thursday, April 8, 2021, on Opening Day in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

Such is baseball life amid the pandemic. But after not being allowed in the ballpark since September of 2019, the vibe seemed mostly welcoming.

The Orioles had a nice start to their first home game, with Matt Harvey settling in for five innings after a rocky opening frame. Ryan Mountcastle, one of the ballclub’s promising young players, roped his first homer of the season over the wall in right-center in the first inning. It was the first of what fans hope are many more to come for the 24-year-old cleanup hitter.

Harvey struck out five and started the sixth inning before getting into more trouble, and a host of relievers couldn’t hold the Orioles’ one-run lead.

The big hit never came from Baltimore’s bats after falling behind. There are too many averages below .200 for anyone to get too juiced about the first week of the season.

Opening Day, if we’re calling it that for sake of tradition, still carries that air of optimism. Even for fans of a team many believe is programmed for 100-plus losses once more.

A fan waves pompons during the sixth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Thursday, April 8, 2021, on Opening Day in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A fan waves pompons during the sixth inning of a baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, Thursday, April 8, 2021, on Opening Day in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

There aren’t many stars dotting the roster, but fans are hanging with the notion that their club has many in the making. And that’s enough to make for a fun-filled day at the ballpark, masks and all.

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