Mike Hargrove had been pestered for days about his intended time of arrival at Camden Yards on Opening Day. It would be his first official game as Orioles manager. The moment couldn't come soon enough.
"I'm fired up," he said after Sunday's workout. "Someone asked me when I would get here. I asked what time they opened the doors."
Hargrove seemed to enjoy just about every aspect of yesterday's game except the final score. He was gracious through the endless string of interview requests, smiling and shaking hands as he trudged from one television camera to the next. The questions were the same. So was his demeanor.
If only his patience had been rewarded with a victory.
"It's a relief getting that first game out of the way, and in an Orioles uniform. It feels good," he said after a 4-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
"It would have felt better if we had won."
Hargrove made out his lineup card Sunday night, then kept reviewing it in his head without making any changes. He stepped onto the field at 12: 09, to a smattering of applause from fans perched behind the dugout. Hargrove waved to them as he strolled into right field, weaving through his players as they stretched on their backs. He later signed some autographs before settling behind the batting cage next to hitting coach Terry Crowley.
That's where one of the day's most anticipated matchups took place.
It's no secret, though Hargrove would like to keep it as such, that he had a cool relationship with former Indians hitting coach Charlie Manuel, who took over as manager. Manuel reportedly disapproved of Hargrove's laid-back approach and handling of a veteran clubhouse, which lent another personal touch to yesterday's game.
There wasn't a hint of animosity as Hargrove and Manuel smiled, shook hands and patted each other on the shoulder. They chatted briefly, moving away from the horde of photographers who descended upon them. Hargrove had handled the moment in the same smooth manner as a Gold Glove infielder.
He later received the loudest ovation during introductions, the crowd rising for the first time as he trotted down the orange carpeting that stretched from the bullpen. He again shook hands with Manuel, in case anyone missed it earlier.
"It was good hearing the cheers," he said. "I hope they're still cheering in September."
Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, standing nearby, playfully gestured at Hargrove after he had completed his trek from the bullpen.
"He was waving air at me," Hargrove said. "He thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen. He thought he was being funny. So did I."
Hargrove had been trying for months to downplay his encounter with the Indians, the team he led to five straight division titles before being fired after last season. He was about more than revenge, he said. This was just another club on the schedule. But there was no escaping the irony, no matter how hard he searched for an opening.
"It's a little different, obviously," he said, "but I dealt with that during [Sunday's] workout and the last week or so while going over the scouting reports."
Brian Graham, who was Hargrove's first base coach in Cleveland last season, also denied there was extra motivation for his boss because of the opponent.
"Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I believe Mike Hargrove wants to set the tone as a Baltimore Oriole. It has nothing to do with the Cleveland Indians," said Graham, who now serves as the club's offensive/defensive coordinator.
"Mike Hargrove wants to get off to a good start for the Baltimore Orioles. He wants to establish himself as an Oriole."
He began doing just that yesterday. Even without a victory.
"I knew I was where I needed to be today," he said. "Where I needed to belong."