As Baltimore celebrated the beginning of a new baseball season March 31, Orioles manager Buck Showalter spoke about the new opportunities in store for the 2014 season.
For Showalter, Opening Day is a celebration for the fans, and Orioles players take pride in that.
"Even guys that have been in the big leagues awhile, you still see that little boy in them today," Showalter said. "I wish we could bottle it. I just want everybody that has taken the time to come out here today, fan-wise, you don't want to disappoint them. The beer will be cold, and the hot dogs will be hot, and [hopefully] it's what they hoped it would be."
Showalter especially relished the chance to witness the proceedings from players getting their first chance to run down the orange carpet during the pregame introductions at Camden Yards, such as rookie Jonathan Schoop and third baseman Ryan Flaherty, both of whom are making their first Opening Day starts.
"I'm going to have a good seat," Showalter said. "I'd like to live it through [the players]. I'll be sneaking a peek at Jonathan and Ryan. That's why we like them. They don't ever assume this or take it for granted. It's an honor, and they get it. … [I think about] Jonathan Schoop's journey from Curacao to get here. He's going to be out there. … Ryan's dad from southern Maine can see his son in the Opening Day lineup. You think about all those things. There's a right kind of nervousness."
Showalter acknowledged that the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day still excited him.
"You're glad to be a part of it," Showalter said. "Every once in a while, when somebody starts talking about, 'How much longer are you going to do it?' And then you have a day like today, and in the back of your mind you go, 'Gee, as long as someone will have me.' "
Mother Nature cooperated, too. After months of brutal weather in Baltimore -- including snow the day before Opening Day -- the Opening Day forecast called for a high of 62 degrees and no chance of rain.
"The weather's going to be good," Showalter said. "You couldn't paint a better scenario as far as it's actually going to be above 60 and the sun's going to be out. There was actually snow on the ground when I got home last night. That'll melt."
There be will one significant difference to MLB in 2014: the introduction of instant replay. Showalter said he looked forward to the chance to see it in action, though he cautioned that it could lead to unexpected speed bumps.
"The only thing is the unknown, a little bit," Showalter said. "That's the only anxiety I think guys have right now. And the umpires do, too. There's just unknown. There's going to be some things that happen today, on Opening Day, that we're kind of going to go: 'Hmm. Didn't see that coming.' But I can't think of anything else we could possibly do to prepare for it.
"I know it was raining and cold last night, and we were down there dry-running it, seven, eight, nine, 10 times, making sure the rings of the phone are different between the bullpen and that room -- whether or not you're even going to need the phone. I'll tell you 20 other things we went over down there. Meeting with MASN about replays and stuff, but I think we kind of know how it's been in the past. Then, when you get through with three games at home, then I think it's going to become a different dynamic on the road. I guarantee it. You're not going to be able to take a step down and know what you got. You're going to have to have communication."
Still, Showalter said the new replay system would be a welcome addition.
"Every good thing starts somewhere," Showalter said. "Can you imagine not having a wild card? I could go through three or four things that have happened the last 10 years. I think as we get into it, three or four years from now, we'll wonder how we ever did it without it. … And now, for sure, our fans can get everything at the park that you get at home, and then some. That's important to us, that our fans that choose to come out here and be here can see everything here that they'll see at home."