BALTIMORE — Nelson Cruz was branded a cheater and punished accordingly. As he waited to be introduced on his first opening day in Baltimore, the former All-Star wondered how Orioles fans would react in the aftermath of the 50-game suspension he received last year for using performance-enhancing drugs.
“As a new player, you don’t know what to expect,” Cruz said. “You hope for the best.”
He couldn’t have asked for more. The sellout crowd collectively yelled, “Cruuuuuuze!” as the slugger ran across the orange carpet, and after Cruz hit the tiebreaking home run to propel Baltimore past the defending champion Boston Red Sox, the chant was even louder.
“It was very, very nice to have that kind of reception,” Cruz said.
Cruz, Ryan Braun and Jhonny Peralta each served hefty suspensions in 2013 for violations of baseball’s drug agreement following the sport’s investigation of Biogenesis of America, a now-defunct rejuvenation clinic. At home games, it seems all is forgiven. On the road, opposing fans won’t let them forget.
Braun responded to jeering Philadelphia fans Tuesday by hitting three homers and driving in seven runs.
“All I can do is focus on things I can control,” Braun said.
“It was a hard decision. You had a chance to be in one place for a long time,” Cruz said. “But I made the right call. I’m happy I made it.”
Braun, who stayed with Milwaukee after a 65-game suspension, was cheered by Brewers fans at the home opener and jeered later that week in Boston. Peralta, now with St. Louis after serving a 50-game suspension with Detroit, heard boos in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before getting a warm reception from Cardinals fans in his home debut Monday.
“When we’re playing Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, fans are going to talk no matter what,” Peralta said. “But I don’t try to pay attention to people when they say a lot of stuff. I try to play the game and try to forget about the past.”
That’s what’s great about baseball, Cruz said.
“What you do in the past is over, whether you have good or bad moments,” he said.
The reception Braun has received on the road is not surprising, even though he apologized several times this offseason after accepting his suspension July 22.
“It’s going to be hostile everywhere he goes,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “We’ve talked. He knows what’s going to happen. He’s been going through this thing for (a while). Really, any great player goes into certain cities and they get booed. Alex Rodriguez got booed in every city he went just because he signed a big contract.”