Washington Nationals catcher Matt Wieters talks about the competitiveness between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals and playing in Camden Yards again. (Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun video)
Matt Wieters emerged from the visiting clubhouse of Camden Yards for the first time in his career on Monday afternoon. He headed into a throng of reporters and cameras in the third-base dugout where he was asked about his first game in Baltimore as an opposing player.
Wieters, a home-grown and key member of the Orioles' resurgence, spoke about playing his first game at Camden Yards in the uniform of the regional rival Washington Nationals before Monday's series opener.
"It's a different vantage point for sure but it was a good feeling today getting to walk into the yard like I did so many years," Wieters said. "It definitely brought a smile to my face and [I'm] excited to be able to be able to play here again."
Wieters, who spent parts of eight seasons with the Orioles before signing with the Nationals this offseason, admitted he thinks he'll have some jitters before Monday's game, but he said he thinks he will be able to deal with them better because he's a veteran.
"I'll be a little amped up and I said this the other day," Wieters said. "Every time you do something for the first time, you get some butterflies. I think the good thing is that the further you get in your career, you learn how to handle them a little bit better.
"Coming back for the first game you obviously have them, when I came back from surgery I had them and it will be the same thing here because I've never experienced playing here from the other side of the field."
Wieters said he will have many, many memories of his time with the Orioles that he will always cherish – he specifically mentioned making his major league debut in 2009 and the club's improbable run to the postseason in 2012 – but said more importantly will be the relationships he's built.
"It's countless, and more than that, it's the amount of relationships I made over there with [trainers] Richie [Bancells] and [Brian] Ebel and the [other] trainers as well at J.J. [Hardy] and [Chris] Tillman and Jonesy [Adam Jones]. I could go on and on about the amount of relationships I'll have well past the game."
Wieters signed with the Nationals in the final week of February after an offseason hand/wrist injury slowed his free-agent market. The Orioles never made Wieters an offer, signing free-agent Welington Castillo in December to replace Wieters.
"It was really my best option at the time," Wieters said of signing with the Nationals. "And when you have to make a decision, you weigh all your options and you take the best option at the time and I felt that D.C. was a good, best fit for me. And I felt the team was built to win now, which was something I wanted to be a part of and really because of some ways the offseason went, it was just the best fit for me.
"I was OK with that," Wieters said of the offseason uncertainty that ultimately landed him in D.C. "It was a matter of I've always believed that we're in certain places in certain times for a reason and that I was in Baltimore for so many years for a reason and now I'm in D.C."
As for whether Wieters can give his new team a competitive advantage because he knows so much about the Orioles, Wieters laughed when asked if he can offer the Nationals a deep scouting report on Orioles starter Kevin Gausman.
"I can give them a few tips but he's still got a pretty good arm with good stuff so we'll have to get some pitches to hit and not miss them," he said.
Asked what it will be like when Jones comes to the plate in the first inning, Wieters said "hopefully there won't be a microphone around somewhere."
"It'll be loud," Wieters said. "It'll be good seeing a lot of these guys when they come to the plate. I remember when I played here and Nick [Markakis] came back and it was good just getting to see him even though it was weird seeing him in a different uniform it's still good to see somebody who's doing well and still doing their dream of playing baseball."