From a fan's perspective, Opening Day may have seemed like the longest day for Orioles newcomer Mike Bordick.
Squarely in the spotlight after pushing Baltimore icon Cal Ripken to third base, Bordick's Camden Yards debut was less than auspicious.
A longtime Oakland Athletics shortstop, Bordick was 0-for-4 batting, and his throwing error in the sixth inning led to two unearned runs, lifting Kansas City into a 2-2 tie.
But ask Bordick, and he'll tell you it was a wonderful afternoon at the park.
"This was a very special day for me," he said. "There was a lot of expectation leading up to this day. And I'm very excited. My primary goal was to come away with a win, and we accomplished that."
Although admitting to Opening Day jitters, Bordick, a six-year veteran, refused to blame the butterflies for his costly miscue and the bobbled ball that preceded his throwing error.
"I just threw one away, and I'm sure there may be a few more this season," said the usually steady shortstop, who had only 10 errors each of the past two seasons.
"But it had nothing to do with the situation [replacing Ripken at short]. I get nervous before every game, especially Opening Day. One day, you're playing exhibitions, then, boom, it's the opener, and it's especially special in Baltimore. You hear so much about it.
"But once I cross the line, my focus goes right to the game. Every player gets watched in the majors. This situation may be a little bit special. But everyone in the game plays with pressure and anxiety, and that brings up your level of play."
Playing alongside Ripken helped ease Bordick's anxieties.
"We communicate well on the field," Bordick said. "We didn't have many unusual situations today, but he's already told me how the ball plays on the outfield grass.
"Everything I heard about Cal and watching him is all true. He's a great professional and great teammate, and I'm real excited about having the opportunity to play with him."
Fellow Orioles newcomer Eric Davis was just thankful to be playing again after five straight injury-marred seasons and a year's absence from the game in 1995 while recovering from a herniated disk in his neck.
"Every baseball player should retire for a year," said the Orioles' new right fielder, who knocked home the game-winning run with a double in the sixth off Royals reliever Randy Veres.
"It puts the game into perspective. After the past five years, I just feel blessed. The Lord gave me my health back, and I'm enjoying myself."
Before the game, Davis received a warm welcome from the Orioles fans who had a bittersweet relationship with the man he replaced on the roster, Bobby Bonilla, now with the Florida Marlins.
"I know the fans expect a lot from me," he said, "and getting a key hit takes a big load off my back."
Davis also was robbed of a home run in the eighth inning when Tom Goodwin leaped over the center-field fence to bring the ball back into the park.
"Where's the FBI?" cracked Davis. "I played with Goodwin on the Dodgers for a few years and I know he's capable of that. Before the game, I said, 'Now, Tommy, don't go taking any homers away from me.' But he didn't listen, did he?"
Jeff Reboulet was a third new Oriole in the spotlight, starting at second base while Roberto Alomar sits out his five-day suspension.
Reboulet, who played for Minnesota the past four years, was errorless in the field, and 0-for-2 at bat. But he was credited with an RBI after drawing a bases-loaded walk from starter Kevin Appier in the fourth inning.
"I'm not putting any undue pressure on myself," said Reboulet, who has always been a handy man capable of playing several positions.
"Obviously, I'm not going to start here unless someone's hurt or in a situation like Alomar's. I consider myself a utility guy who can provide some help.
"I don't try to do things I'm not capable of. With the bases loaded, I'm not looking to hit a grand slam. Just find a way to get a run or two home."
Reboulet did that and helped the Orioles win a game.
"Playing on Opening Day is something rare for me," he said. "That's why winning this one will be something special to remember."
Pub Date: 4/03/97