Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates arrived at Oriole Park yesterday and quickly fell into his old routine.
"My son, Andy, and I came in the same door we always came in and got the same greetings we always got from the same people, believe it or not, that are still there," Oates said. "But it did feel different."
The difference, of course, is that Oates' destination was the visitors' clubhouse rather than his old office, now occupied by Phil Regan.
Yesterday marked the return to Camden Yards for Oates, who managed the Orioles from mid-1991 to '94, as well as former Orioles Mark McLemore and Jack Voigt.
Oates, who said that the Orioles were "just another opponent" when the teams met last week in Arlington, Texas, spoke fondly of Baltimore and the organization.
"I wasn't expecting to come back here with an eight-game losing streak, but it's a chance to see a lot of good friends that I've made over the years here in Baltimore," said Oates, who was fired by the Orioles last September despite a 237-199 record the past three seasons. "I don't feel like I've ever been bitter. I'm thankful for the opportunity I had here. I really don't feel I have any right to have any grudges.
"In fact, I've tried to analyze what went on last year and I think that I'm a better person and a better manager for it. I know there were times when I became frustrated and angry. I still get angry and frustrated, but I hope that I'm able to handle it and react to it better because of last year."
McLemore and Voigt both said that Baltimore holds special significance for them.
It was here that McLemore rejuvenated his career and became an everyday player after toiling in the minor leagues for several years in the Angels, Indians and Astros organizations.
"There are a lot of good memories here," said McLemore, who signed with Texas as a free agent after three years with the Orioles. "I miss the city, I miss the guys. But it's a new chapter in my life. It's time to go on."
Said Voigt, a reserve outfielder who made his major-league debut with the Orioles in 1992: "Everybody here, I think, is quietly happy to be back. I wasn't an everyday player, but I still feel like I had the fans' support."
Neither player said he had any added incentive to beat his former club.
"We're in the middle of a pennant race," McLemore said. "Whether it's these guys, the Angels or the Indians, it doesn't matter. A win's a win."
Added Voigt: "Now it's the gray uniforms against the white uniforms, and that's the way I've got to take it. And if I get a chance to go in there and play, I'm going to try to produce."
Other familiar faces with the Rangers include former Orioles players Mickey Tettleton and Mike Pagliarulo, coaches Dick Bosman and Jerry Narron and former assistant general manager Doug Melvin, now the Rangers' general manager.