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On Opening Day of rebuilding season, Orioles fans try to get to know ‘anonymous team’

With the Orioles’ 2019 season minutes from beginning, David Mohr and Steve Capece made a toast to the upcoming season.

“Here’s to the No. 1 overall pick two years in a row.”

The Orioles’ Opening Day loss, 7-2, to the New York Yankees on Thursday came on the road, leaving Baltimoreans in search of a place to take in the season opener other than Camden Yards. Mohr and Capece chose Max’s Taphouse in Fells Point to see the start of a rebuilding season after last year’s 47-115 collapse.

They took in a team with a handful of returners but a crop of newcomers. Eleven members of the Orioles’ 25-man roster were part of their first Opening Day. Baltimore’s second batter, Dwight Smith Jr., stumped Mohr. Other unfamiliar faces figure to make their way onto the Orioles roster throughout the year.

“That’s the way it’s gonna be,” Mohr said. “The Orioles are like an affliction. I can’t help myself. I’m always excited at the beginning of the season, even when you knew they were gonna be terrible. We’ll see how long that lasts.”

Still, optimism remains. Mohr noted his children will have a “new cast” to grow up watching. He and Capece had belief in new general manager Mike Elias’ plans and the adoption of mainstream analytics.

“There’s nowhere to go but up,” Capece said.

Nearby, at The Point in Fells, Carol Sterner soaked in her first Opening Day as a retired woman by splitting a club sandwich with her husband, Clyde. Thursday marked their first dive into getting to know what Clyde called “an anonymous team.”

“We go back to Memorial Stadium days,” Carol said. “We’ve known the players. We’ve known the coaches. And this is … it’s really strange.”

She thinks back to the 1988 season, one that started with 21 straight losses, and worries 2019 could begin with the same ominousness. Already, the player whose shirsey she wore to lunch, Mark Trumbo, is on the injured list. It’s a player no longer with the team, outfielder Adam Jones, that stands out in her mind, though she has faith in center field successor Cedric Mullins.

“We’re just gonna let it unfold and see what happens,” Carol said. “But we’ll stick with ’em.”

Even though three of the four TVs in The Admiral’s Cup had the game on, most of the handful of patrons seemed focused on the fourth, showing a Transformers movie. Mark Nowowiejski’s eyes were locked on the game on the screen in front of him, though he’s not sure that will be the case throughout the season.

Many of the players he most wants to watch, Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays and Chance Sisco, are starting the season in the minors. Nowowiejski understands the front office’s desire for development and figures call-ups will provide jolts of excitement throughout what could be another 100-loss season.

“If they were all up now,” Nowowiejski said, “it’d be like there’d be nothing to look forward to.”

In the meantime, he figures he’ll pay attention to other teams and keep up with former Orioles around the league. Jones and Caleb Joseph are with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jonathan Schoop and Nelson Cruz are with the Minnesota Twins. The Atlanta Braves’ roster includes Nick Markakis and Kevin Gausman, and Manny Machado is a highly paid San Diego Padre.

But Nowowiejski will come back to the Orioles, a team full of players he’s trying to know.

nruiz@baltsun.com

twitter.com/NathanSRuiz

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