- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

BALTIMORE — Thousands of fans yesterday turned out for Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first Orioles game in 34 years that had local competition for baseball lovers’ attention.

Several fans said they see the Washington Nationals franchise as healthy competition and a fun diversion — not as a threat.

“I try to come to every Opening Day here, and I’m going to Opening Day down there” in Washington, said Josh Taylor, 39. The Nationals “are in the National League, so it doesn’t really compete [with the American League’s Orioles]. And you get to see other players.”

Orioles fans seemed willing to tolerate the new team and enjoyed the home team’s 4-0 victory over the Oakland A’s — but few expressed any desire to switch loyalties.

“I’m a lifetime [Orioles] fan, and another team in the area is fine,” said Kevin Heck, 33, a Carroll County fan who brought his 3-year-old son, Hunter, to watch his first ballgame yesterday. “I’m not a traitor, and he definitely will be an O’s fan.”

Meanwhile, the Millhollan family was training a new generation of Orioles lovers in the art of devotion.

Victoria Millhollan, 40, drove into Baltimore yesterday to watch the game with her husband, Eric; their 2-year-old son, E.J.; and their 11-month-old triplets, Ashton, Brian and Cameron.

“We’re going to try to come to games once a month,” Mrs. Millhollan said. “I brought my older sons about once a week when they were younger; now they bring themselves.”

Carting the triplets and a 2-year-old around in a stroller is a lot of work, but the Orioles are worth it, she said.

Mr. Millhollan said he attended Opening Day last year, even though his wife was nearby at Johns Hopkins Hospital waiting for the triplets to be born.

Opening Day holds sentimental value for 6-year-old Berit Batterton and her parents, who celebrated their 19th consecutive season opener.

“Opening Day is neat for us because at it, me and my wife had our first date and it’s also the day I proposed,” said Richard Batterton, 51, of Baltimore. “And [Berit] was almost born on Opening Day.”

Many of the children at yesterday’s game had to skip school to attend — and school officials seemed to understand.

Mr. Batterton said Berit’s teacher said, “There are some things you just got to do” when he told her that Berit would be at Camden Yards yesterday.

Sheila Johnson said, her daughter’s principal said “Lucky dog” when she was told of the family’s Opening Day plans. Mrs. Johnson; her husband, Steve; daughter Molly; and son Zachary drove to the game from Hagerstown.

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