BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Opening Day is a special occasion in Baltimore.

Naturally, baseball fans brought the excitement with them when they traveled from all over to downtown Baltimore to see the Orioles host the Milwaukee Brewers.

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As WJZ found, some fans started getting to Oriole Park at Camden Yards as early as 10 a.m. so they could get their tickets and take advantage of the excitement.

“I’ve been loving the Orioles for over 50 years, so I’m a huge fan,” Lillian Atkinson said. “There’s just something about it, it’s so much fun.”

Atkinson wasn’t alone. Jeremiah Johnson and Joe Weyer were among the die-hard Orioles fans who showed up at the stadium several hours before the first pitch.

“The true fans come out on Opening Day, and that’s why we’re here right now,” Weyer told WJZ.

The scene downtown was a noticeable departure from that of the past two seasons due to restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Probably the same atmosphere, but you had to wear your mask and everything,” Charles Valentine said.

“I totally missed it over the past COVID year and a half, I really did,” added Carol Cutrona, a fellow Orioles fan.

This Opening Day has the added excitement of being the 30th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That excitement was evident among the early bird crowd.

Pamela Labarta said she and her friends haven’t been to the stadium since the pandemic began, so they were thrilled to return for the special occasion.

“We have been Opening Day champs for the last seven years,” Labarta told WJZ. “We try to outdo ourselves every year.”

Some fans made the trip to Baltimore from other states, with some traveling from as far away as Florida and North Carolina.

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“The ballpark is iconic and, being baseball fans, we understand that this kind of set the trend on, you know, no more cookie-cutter stadiums,” said Geoff Gregg of Wilmington, North Carolina.

“I’m just excited about it,” added Kris Dorsey of West Palm Beach, Florida. “Go Orioles! I’m an Orioles fan today.”

As the gates opened before the game, the excitement only grew. Fans told WJZ that Opening Day is one of the times when Baltimore is at its best.

“Baltimore can get a bad rep sometimes,” Labarta said. “So the times you can come out and really see us all united and celebrate together and just cheer on, even though we don’t have the best seasons, we’re still fans and we’re here.”

Even Orioles legend Cal Ripkin Jr., a former shortstop for the team, weighed in on the magic of Opening Day.

But for some people, the most magical thing about the day was the way the Baltimore Orioles made an effort to honor the city’s fallen heroes.

Family members of fallen Officer Keona Holley and fallen firefighters Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler, and Kenny Lacayo threw out the first pitches.

Holley was ambushed while working the overnight shift in Curtis Bay. She died in December 2021.

Butrim, Sadler, and Lacayo died in January 2022 after a vacant house collapsed on them while they were fighting a fire.

A fourth firefighter, John McMaster, was injured when part of the house collapsed but survived those injuries.

McMaster joined those family members on the field.

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Mayor Brandon Scott took to Twitter on Monday to commend the Baltimore Orioles for the “first class” move.

Jessica Albert