Notes: Fanfare surrounds home opener

Notes: Fanfare surrounds home opener

BALTIMORE -- These dignitaries arrived via an orange carpet. The Orioles staged an elaborate pregame ceremony before Monday's home opener at Camden Yards, and both the Tigers and Orioles were introduced individually.

After hearing their names, the players on the 25-man roster for both teams ran down an orange walkway that stretched from center field to second base, and they aligned themselves along the baselines. That's where they remained for the national anthem, which was sung by international opera star Richard Troxell, who has done the honors for five straight years.

Color guard from all five branches of the military -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard -- were on the field to present the colors, and a huge American flag was unfurled by the center-field fence during the anthem. Baltimore also had a fly-over by three fighter jets immediately after the anthem concluded.

After that, there was only one thing left to do -- throw the ceremonial first pitch. Baltimore icon Cal Ripken Jr. did the honors, throwing a perfect down-and-away strike to current shortstop Miguel Tejada. Tejada, who has played in 1,086 consecutive games, is almost 10 seasons away from breaking Ripken's streak of 2,632 straight games.

All that fanfare underscored the team's return home after two eventful series on the road. Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said he'd never opened on the road before with the Orioles, but he was happy to be home.

"We've been running around, and it was nice to sleep in our own beds," he said. "Hopefully, it energizes us a little bit and charges us up. But it's Opening Day nonetheless, and you can't get any better than that here in Baltimore."

In memory: The Orioles also ran a montage featuring the faces of people from within the organization who have passed away in the last year, including former manager Hank Bauer, former pitchers Steve Barber and Pat Dobson and former community outreach director Shannon Obaker.

In addition, all of the team's players wore a bracelet with Obaker's initials -- S.O. -- on their wrist for Monday's game. The tribute was organized by second baseman Brian Roberts, and replicas were sold at the community booth.

The bracelets also will be sold at, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Roberts' favorite charity, the University of Maryland Hospital for Children.

"Shannon was a great advocate for the Orioles' community efforts and was the person who coordinated my involvement with UMHC," Roberts said as part of a prepared statement. "I wanted to do something in her memory, and selling the bracelets gives me the opportunity to do that and raise funds for a worthy cause."

Case closed: Baltimore closer Chris Ray, who had pitched in three straight games, was expected to sit out Monday's game. Perlozzo said he'd like to use Danys Baez as his closer if the game situation called for it.

"We'll check with Chris again before the game starts," Perlozzo said. "We'd like to get off him if we can."

Ray lost one game and saved two others during the New York series, and Perlozzo also used Baez in two of those games. The operative plan has been to save Baez for games in which Ray doesn't pitch, but Perlozzo has found himself using the former closer in the eighth inning and his current closer in the ninth.

"I'm going to have to wait and see. We hope it's going to happen so much that we'll have some trouble," the skipper said, joking about his desire to see a lot of save situations. "We'll work around it. We've got some left-handers, [if we need them] in the eighth inning. We'll save Danys. Hopefully, things will work out like that for us over the course of the season."

Still waiting: Perlozzo was asked about Jay Payton's left hamstring injury on Monday, and he expressed some doubt that Payton will be ready to come off the disabled list on Wednesday, his first day of eligibility.

"I'm not sure. I would hope he'd be ready," Perlozzo said of Payton, who hasn't played since late in the exhibition schedule. "We'll probably do the same thing with him that we did with [injured catcher] Ramon [Hernandez]. We want to make sure it's completely out of there, so when we get him back, he's back for a while."

Coming up: The Orioles and Tigers will continue their three-game series Tuesday, with Jaret Wright matched up against Detroit's Nate Robertson. Wright didn't make it through the third inning in his season debut.

Quotable: "If we don't do it today, we've got a ton of games to play. What we'd like to do is play some good baseball, get the fans on our side and have them start coming out throughout the season. We have something to prove to them, and we'd like to get them back," -- Perlozzo, on the need to pump up fan support

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.