BOSTON -- Heading into his first big league Opening Day, Adley Rutschman knew he’d feel a bit nervous because of the pageantry that accompanies the most special day on the baseball calendar. Especially because he’d be taking in the festivities at Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark still being used in MLB, having been the home of the Red Sox since 1912.
Rutschman just hoped those jitters would hold off until he arrived at the park Thursday.
No such luck for the Orioles’ catcher.
“I woke up this morning, and I felt it,” Rutschman said. “I was like, ‘Gosh.’”
By the time Rutschman was in the on-deck circle for the game’s first pitch, he was relaxed. Then, he put on one of the best Opening Day performances in Baltimore’s illustrious history.
Rutschman homered, went 5-for-5, walked once and set new career highs in hits and RBIs (four) as the Orioles opened the 2023 season with a 10-9 win over the Red Sox. Since at least 1901, no catcher had recorded five hits or gotten on base six times in a season-opening game.
No O’s player had achieved either of those feats on Opening Day since the franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1954.
“There have been a lot of great players that have worn this uniform,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s not going to be the only time you’re going to say that about Adley. He’s going to be doing other things that are going to be firsts as well, because he’s just a super special player, a really good hitter. And he hasn’t even played a full year yet.”
The historical context of Rutschman’s performance runs deep. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he was the first player to go 5-for-5 (or better) with four RBIs on Opening Day. He’s only the third to go 5-for-5 with multiple RBIs (since the stat became official in 1920) in a season opener, joining a pair of Hall of Famers in Billy Herman ('36) and Babe Ruth ('21).
Rutschman’s huge day began on his first swing of the season. He deposited Red Sox starter Corey Kluber’s eighth pitch of the game a Statcast-projected 402 feet over the right-field wall. By clobbering Kluber’s 2-0 sinker for a first-inning solo shot, Rutschman became the first Orioles player to go deep in his first career Opening Day at-bat since Sam Horn on April 9, 1990.
In the third, Rutschman singled. In the fourth, he walked. Then, he contributed to Baltimore’s three-run rally in the fifth with a two-run single. Rutschman added an RBI single in the seventh, before capping his performance with an infield single in the ninth.
While Rutschman’s home run was a jolt to right field on a ball he barreled, each of his four singles was hit the opposite way toward left field.
“I try and take each AB as it comes, and try and give my best effort on that AB,” Rutschman said. “Whether I’m 0-for-5 or 5-for-5, the next AB is the most important one.”
So it ended up being quite a memorable first Opening Day for Rutschman, the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Award runner-up who burst onto the big league scene last May 21 and quickly cemented himself among baseball’s rising stars.
Rutschman warmed up Orioles starter Kyle Gibson in the visitors' bullpen and stood there to take in the national anthem as their teammates lined up along the third-base line. He watched the giant American flag get draped over the Green Monster in left field, then the pregame flyover that occurred shortly after.
A little more than three hours later, Rutschman enjoyed the game’s thrilling conclusion. After the Red Sox scored three runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth to cut their deficit to one run, Félix Bautista struck out Adam Duvall swinging for the final out, securing an O’s victory. Rutschman then jogged to the mound, sporting a wide grin, and gave Bautista a celebratory hug.
Rutschman compared the experience to his final season opener with Oregon State in 2019, when the Beavers began the year at Surprise Stadium in Arizona in front of 1,947 fans. It wasn’t anything like Thursday, when 36,049 fans were packed into the seats at vaunted Fenway.
“This definitely blows that out of the water,” Rutschman said. “To have that close game in the ninth inning and the crowd getting so loud, you kind of sit there and you’re like, ‘OK, this is pretty cool.’”
Now, it’s on to game No. 2 of 162. And as Opening Day showed, Year No. 2 of Rutschman’s MLB career could be special. It may turn out that way for the Orioles, too.
When Rutschman thinks back to his first big league opener, he’ll remember his pregame nervousness and, of course, his phenomenal performance. But the talented catcher, known as a true team-first guy, may recall something else first.
“It’s crazy. First Opening Day, being able to come out here -- like I said, the hits are awesome,” Rutschman said. “But the winning, for me, is more important.”