BALTIMORE - There is something so telling about a ballpark this time of year.
As if a sun dial, the length of the shadows on the stands tell you it's almost time, the busy work laying a new warning track, the pads being re-installed on the outfield wall all foretelling the return of a season; a familiar and comfortable cadence night in, night out...balls and strikes, home runs and diving plays, all at the game's almost purposeful pace as if daring us to slow down and take in a summer night.
"It's gonna be another great summer, spring and summer and hopefully the Orioles will be in the World Series. It's just a great feeling for Baltimore and for me."
For 84 year-old Justin Vitrano, that hope has been springing for 60 years.
The man hasn't missed an opening day since the Orioles came to town in 1954; not the first game at Camden Yards 21 years ago, not the last opening day of Memorial Stadium.
The start of every year is as fresh and exciting as the year before.
"Something new is gonna happen every game. No two games are exactly like the previous one. And that's what makes it so interesting," said Vitrano.
And while that's enough for anyone who loves the game to make 60 straight opening days, this year in this city there seems to be something different.
"I would say coming off the playoff run of last year, the excitement that built, I think if we had a 100 thousand seat stadium, we'd be able to easily fill it."
That is more than double current capacity for the yard but Greg Bader with the Orioles says the demand for opening day tickets, season plans and even single game tickets are the highest it has been in 20 years.
The 2012 season and playoff berth ignited a dormant fan base, one that is now coming out to fan rallies like the one Tuesday at Dempsey's to reclaim a Baltimore tradition reborn last October.
From the die-hard fans who never left like Romeo Santos...
"I've been going since we were dead last, since I was a kid. Now it’s like Ravens style is coming, like how Baltimore is die-hard Ravens fans, now we're die-hard Orioles fans.”
To a reformed Yankee fan...
"I was tired of the Yankees getting all the free agents. I moved down here in 2004, 2003. He [my son] was born in 2004 and I raised him an Orioles fan," said Mike Fiol.
And behind fans like them, a bandwagon that is nearing capacity.
The losing can make a team lovable but winning makes it intoxicating.
Opening Day 2013 is literally the hottest ticket in town only matching the fever of a thirsty fan base, all waiting patiently for their seat to mark the turn of a season and the hopeful beginning of a new era.
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