BALTIMORE -- The loudest pregame cheers were for Adam Jones. Orioles fans have always appreciated the longtime center fielder, who started his 11th consecutive opener.
Their appreciation grew even deeper when he hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the 11th, and the Orioles had a 3-2 Opening Day win over the Minnesota Twins.
Leading off the inning, Jones hit Fernando Rodney's first pitch into the left field stands, and then the fun began.
Jones was drenched with Gatorade by his teammates as he reached home plate, and when he was being interviewed on television, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop ran up to him and slapped shaving cream on his face.
For Orioles fans, the moment was even more special because like Machado, Jones can be a free agent after the season, and this could have been the Baltimore icon's final opener.
"Who knows, but I'm here now and it's awesome," Jones said.
It was a game with lots of twists and turns.
Dylan Bundy pitched seven excellent innings, allowing five hits and striking out seven. The right-hander wasn't awed in his first Opening Day start, and stood to win until Brad Brach blew the save in the ninth when he allowed two runs.
Caleb Joseph looked to be the hero in the eighth when he hit a two-run triple. In the bottom of the 10th, the Orioles had another chance to win when they loaded the bases with one out.
Minnesota manager Paul Molitor used a five-man infield with center fielder Eddie Rosario playing in, and Schoop hit into a double play, forcing an 11th inning.
Jones, who had been hitless in his first four at-bats, ended the game.
"Doesn't matter how it comes, as long as you win the game at the end of the day," Jones said. "It was a beautiful game. Obviously we wanted to win it in nine, but I can't see anybody that complains about a win, no matter how late you have to go and get it."
The win was Buck Showalter's eighth straight Opening Day win as Orioles manager. Jones is the only player that has been with Showalter throughout his Orioles managerial tenure, and obviously, he has a lot of appreciation for him.
"One of the biggest things that Adam's brought here is he posts up," Showalter said.
"…Adam, he's just been a guy. One of the first guys I spent some time with when I got here was Adam. So obviously I've got a little special affinity for the things he brings. I understand him and the rough edges we all have, but he's very consistent. Especially with his baseball. You know what you're getting every night. That's a lot of games to not ever walk up the runway and not feel like he wasn't ready to play."
It was the third time that Jones had ended a game with a home run, and the first since June 9, 2012. Things have changed in Jones' life since then. He has two young sons now, and they stood next to him as he answered questions about the win.
"Each one is more and more special because it shows I've been able to maintain and stay in the big leagues," Jones said. "Each one is more and more important. This one was more important because my kids were able to talk better and understand what's going on better."
It's far from certain that Jones will be with the Orioles when they next play a home opener, but he's savoring the moment.
"I knew it was gone off the bat," Jones said. "Little boys here to watch me, my whole family here to support me, so it's important and a big opening day. I'm glad we got the win and it was cool that I was able to get the big hit, but I'm just glad we got the win."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox