For Orioles’ Bruce Zimmerman and his family, a debut on Opening Day is like a dream come true: ‘Indescribable’

Bruce Zimmerman let emotions take over Sunday night. He went to the dark field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, drenched in silence—a silence he would experience the next afternoon.

When he grew up in Ellicott City, the Loyola Blakefield graduate dreamed of moments like these. And because of those dreams, Zimmerman hoped that taking some time in the pitch-dark calm would make Monday easier.

There was no escaping the magnitude: the 27-year-old left-handed batsman was the starting pitcher for the ball club of his childhood on Opening Day. But there was a chance to dull it enough, to allow themselves to experience the awe, rather than the 44,461 spectators who chanted his name.

“Walking that field and ‘Opening Day’ spray-painted on the grass and looking at the new left field wall and warehouse, it was kind of a story book,” said Zimmerman, the Maryland-born first pitcher. Oriole Park to start home opener in 30 years.

And as with any good story, it has a happy ending. Zimmerman played four unscored innings, keeping the Milwaukee Brewers largely in check and handed the ball to the bullpen to secure. 2-0 win in the home opener.

“The way it went today was like the cherry on top,” Zimmerman said.

When Zimmerman sat so many years ago in his childhood bedroom not far from Camden Yards, his dreams included him running across the orange carpet from Center Field. He didn’t have that distinction on Monday, warming up in the bullpen during those pregame introductions.

But that modification to his dream was minute given the overall nature of his outing, as he dismissed four Brewers while allowing three hits. He acted out of danger in the third inning, when he loaded the base with two walks before forcing an innings-ending fielder’s choice. He showed full emotion, earning a long “Bruce” chorus from a hometown crowd, applauding one of his own.

All that didn’t make the orange carpet introduction worthwhile.

“I think he’d love to pitch more,” said Zimmerman’s father, Bruce Sr.

Her mother, Marcy, said, “We’d much rather be pitching him.”

His parents were in the crowd, along with his many aunts and uncles and siblings. His college coach at Mount Olive, Carl Lancaster, invited himself, texting Zimmerman for tickets as soon as he heard the young pitcher would begin.

It was Lancaster’s first time seeing Zimmerman personally at the major league level, and given how well his former student did on Monday, it probably won’t be the last. Zimmerman mixed his change heavily with his fastball, but his sliders—used sparingly—also kept the Brewers off balance.

“His turnaround has always been good,” Lancaster said. “And it looks like his slider is a lot better than before. Velo is up there and he composes a lot. We are all excited for him, so proud of him, and he deserves a lot. He worked hard. She is a hard worker.”

To be here, on the bump for Opening Day at Camden Yards, was more than a solid spring training. Zimmerman isolated 2021, hampered by biceps tendonitis and a severely sprained right ankle. But despite a stint on the 60-day injury list, he returned in six weeks from an ankle injury, determined to make a good impact this season to keep himself in the starting rotation.

The results were a mixed bag. He allowed one run in four innings on his debut, a 4–2 win over the Boston Red Sox, before recording only two outs and three runs in a 12–4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. . Still, being on the mound shows his perseverance—a goal for big moments in the future.

“He was inspired to start at the end of last season by thinking about this year,” his father said. “He wanted to make an impression before this season even started.”

Normally, Zimmerman would take a look into the stands to see his parents, a quick acknowledgment before he focused on his next pitch. But Zimmerman didn’t pay that much attention to Section 38 on Monday, not even getting out of the mound after the fourth inning.

But if Zimmerman had not seen his parents, they could hardly have looked anywhere else.

As he watched his son on the mound for Opening Day, the ballpark he regularly attended over the years nodded, smiled and laughed, and cried whenever Zimmerman retired another batsman. However, it was more difficult to express that sentiment in other ways.

“No words,” said Bruce Sr.

“Indescribable,” said Marcy.

“Awesome, man,” said Lancaster. “I think everyone in the ballpark is very proud of him.”

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