O's celebrate 25th anniversary of Oriole Park

Members of '92 team gather for commemorative luncheon

O's celebrate 25th anniversary of Oriole Park

BALTIMORE -- On Friday afternoon, countless members of the Orioles 1992 team wondered, "Has it really been that long?" But there it was on the ceremonial backdrop behind them, the commemorative patch added this year for the 25th anniversary season of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

"It's crazy -- 25 years. It goes by in the blink of an eye," said Orioles current vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson. "I guess that's how life is. It's not like [it was] yesterday, but not too long ago that Devo [Mike Devereaux] and I checked it out [for the first time]. … It doesn't seem long enough. 25 years?"

Indeed, 25 years. And with nearly two dozen members of the '92 team assembled for an anniversary luncheon on Friday, the mood was light, introspective -- with everyone feeling fortunate to have been a part of baseball history.

"The visionary aspect, the architectural aspect, the people that were involved in this all together, you look at this ballpark, and I'm sitting here looking down on it in amazement," former Orioles first baseman Glenn Davis said.

"This is a classic ballpark, and bar none, you have all these new stadiums and ballparks out there, and Camden Yards is near the top."

Dubbed The Ballpark That Forever Changed Baseball™, the baseball-only facility became the official home of the Orioles in downtown Baltimore on April 6, 1992. The retro-style ballpark was the first of its kind, sparking a trend for more fan-friendly ballparks in downtown areas across the country.

It also came at a time when baseball ruled supreme in Baltimore, with nightly sellouts only adding to the mystique of brand-new OPACY.

"It was exciting as all get-out to play in front of a packed house every single night," Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken Jr. said. "It felt like baseball had been played here before. That's what I was so worried about here was the rich history of baseball [in Baltimore] would be lost going to a new place. But this place, the design of it, it felt like baseball had been played here before.

"So, it was sort of a continuation. And it didn't take long to get comfortable, that this was our home. I just remember the fan excitement and trying to suppress some of that adrenaline on a daily basis so you could get into a normal routine."

Added former Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald: "A lot of people forget we were the only game in town back then. There were no Ravens, there were no Nationals down the road. So, the ballpark was packed all the time. For me, I think while there were some good crowds at Memorial [the Orioles' previous stadium], it seemed like the crowds were closer, more on top of you on this field.

"You could really feel the energy and the ballpark a little bit more so than Memorial during regular-season ball games."

There was nothing wrong with Memorial Park, housing some all-time greats like Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson and seeing plenty of Ripken Jr. as well. It saw many big league debuts, including that of Billy Ripken.

"The facility, at the time I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. Until we got over here and the game had changed," Ripken Jr. said. "Everything was at your fingertips here, the cages were nice and right behind the dugout. The field was great, the clubhouse was immaculate, and big and spacious. Everything you could possibly want in a stadium was here."

Camden Yards' first game didn't disappoint, with the Orioles winning 2-0 on O's right-hander Rick Sutcliffe's shutout. Sutcliffe, who had food poisoning leading up to his Opening Day start, was masterful despite being ill.

"I probably should have had that mentality more in my career, because I didn't know how long I was going to last," he said. "I knew that I had a fever. I knew I lost a bunch of weight, so I was trying to get outs as quick as I possibly could."

The O's scored the first -- and decisive -- run on Chris Hoiles' ground-rule double to score designated hitter Sam Horn. Horn, one of the contestants in Saturday's Home Run Derby, said Friday the outfield wall looks a lot closer, now that he's not focused on hitting the ball there.

"When it was brand new [the atmosphere] was crazy," said former pitcher Mike Mussina, who still brings his family to Camden Yards a couple times a year. "But it's still a good place to come to a game. The fans are extremely fortunate that they have this place to come to."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.