Associated Press, Published April 05 2012
Camden Yards celebrates 20 years as Twins open against Orioles today
Like so many others, it didn’t take long for Ripken to become a fan of the new ballpark. On the 20th anniversary of that historic first game on April 6, 1992, the Baltimore Orioles will mark the occasion today on opening day against the Minnesota Twins.
Ripken enjoyed many a celebration at Camden Yards, most notably the night in 1995 when he set the major league record for consecutive games played. Initially, however, the Hall of Fame star was hesitant to back the team’s move from venerable Memorial Stadium.
“I have to tell you, I was very torn because of the history of Memorial Stadium and the love I had for Memorial Stadium,” Ripken said this week. “I remember walking into Camden Yards for the first time, and it felt like the ballpark had a history already. It felt like games had been played there before. It had a real good baseball feel to it. It made you quickly forget about Memorial Stadium and let you focus on the here and now.”
Brady Anderson, who started in left field for the Orioles on that day, recalled, “There was a certain amount of awe going out there. It was a stadium perfect for the city, a great place to watch a game. It was the first park of its kind.”
The Orioles won the game 2-0. Back then, Camden Yards was a new ballpark with an old-fashioned feel. Now it’s an elderly stadium that has aged very, very well.
“I was downtown a couple days ago driving by the ballpark and I thought, ‘Man, that thing still looks brand new,’” Ripken said. “They’ve taken care of the field, and now that the trees around it have grown up, it looks like it’s matured in a whole new way. I just think it’s fantastic, the best ballpark in the league.”
Jake Arrieta, who will start on the mound for Baltimore today, hopes to reprise the performance of former Oriole Rick Sutcliffe, who tossed a five-hitter in that memorable opener in 1992.
A sellout crowd is expected, just like in the old days when Camden Yards was filled for every game. Attendance has steadily dwindled over the past several years, mostly because the Orioles haven’t had a winning season since 1997.
The Twins are also looking for a turnaround after going 63-99 last season – like the Orioles, they finished in last place in 2011. The problem, for the most part, was the loss of key players to injury – most notably Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
“You know, we’ve both been pretty banged up the last couple of years, but you want to give yourself a chance,” Mauer said. “You want your guys out there and playing, and no one wants to be out there more than us two.”
Morneau played in only 69 games last year and in 81 in 2010. If the Twins to make some noise in the AL Central, he’s got to contribute.
“He didn’t sit this winter. He went out and worked,” Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan said. “He’s doing fine, he’s participating, he’s got a smile on his face, he’s in tremendous shape.”
Carl Pavano, 36, will start for the Twins.