Fans warm up newcomers on cool, windy afternoon

The Baltimore Sun

The newest Orioles felt the love yesterday from an enthusiastic, if rather chilled, Camden Yards crowd.

"The only time I've seen a packed house at home was in Houston and here," said an appreciative Aubrey Huff, who spent his first 6 1/2 major league seasons playing with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before being traded to the Astros last July.

Reliever Chad Bradford said: "You always want to have the fans in your city supporting you. Here, they're more behind you the whole season. That's what I've seen as a visitor."

The fans made as big an impression on the newcomers as the gritty Orioles did on the crowd in a 6-2 victory over the defending American League champion Detroit Tigers.

Even manager Sam Perlozzo was moved to acknowledge the fans who braved the 44-degree temperature and wind gusts of 14 mph to celebrate the return of baseball to Baltimore.

"I was a little more nervous today in front of our fans," he said, "but it was great to see them and hear them cheer for us."

Adam Loewen, who got his introduction to Orioles fans the second half of last season, said he got a kick out of his first home opener, too.

"It was cool to see the fans go nuts, and to give them a win was huge," Loewen said. "Hopefully, this will bring them back. We want the fans to support us."

The cheers were especially gratifying for Huff, who delivered a run-scoring single in the fifth inning, and Bradford, who closed out the game with 1 1/3 hitless innings of relief behind winner Daniel Cabrera.

Huff, who signed as a free agent in January, had hit safely in five of the first six games of the season. But against Tigers starter Chad Durbin, he was called out on strikes twice in the first three innings.

"My first couple of at-bats, I extended the strike zone," he said. "I was chasing some bad pitches. I was jazzed up because of the crowd."

Bradford signed as a free agent in November. Because he collected 23 of his 27 major league wins in the American League, he knew about Baltimore's reputation. Yesterday provided him with a special treat, though.

"It's a great baseball town with a rich tradition," he said. "Having Cal [Ripken Jr.] throw out the first pitch was great. I grew up watching him."

Bradford also claimed this bit of trivia: "The last hit Cal got in Oakland was a double off me. And then the fans gave him a standing ovation. They knew it would be his last at-bat in Oakland."

Yesterday was a day for creating new memories. Loewen knew where to look for his, even though he didn't play.

"Winning it and getting a standing ovation had to be the best part," he said.

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