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The end of a baseball fan’s streak

Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight games, Joe DiMaggio had a hit in 56 games in a row and the Atlanta Braves won 14 consecutive National League East division championships.

Even the greatest streaks in baseball history eventually came to an end. Today, my own baseball streak skids to a halt.

After eight years, I won’t be sitting at Oriole Park this afternoon when the Orioles celebrate Opening Day at Camden Yards in a game against the Minnesota Twins.

Opening Day has been the best baseball day in the city for more than a decade. Even as the Orioles have suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons, the seats in the ballpark have remained filled on that April afternoon when baseball returns and honest hope for the team’s turnaround momentarily trumps sensibility.

It’s not that the stadium isn’t full of some kind of energy at other points during the season. But the first game is the only time when there are more than 40,000 fans at the park wearing orange rather than Yankee pinstripes or Red Sox caps.

Opening Day and the crowds that flock to it are the last real connection to the team’s glory days, when walking up and buying a seat at Oriole Park on game day was a laughable impossibility.

Most days, you can walk to the booth five minutes before the first pitch, buy a ticket and be in your seat before the Star-Spangled Banner ends.

Instead of being in Baltimore, I am, of course, in Annapolis today, covering the final days of the General Assembly. But at least I won’t be alone.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, joked this week that his chamber would adjourn by 1 p.m. for the Good Friday holiday and so senators could make the baseball game.

But many lawmakers are expected to spend much of this afternoon cobbling together an agreement on a fiscal 2013 operating and capital budgets. The group includes Del. Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore City, who offered the morning prayer in the House of Delegates on Friday morning — an ode to the first day of the Major League Baseball season.

“Perhaps a future Hall of Famer is making his major league debut this afternoon. Or an obscure utility player may get the big hit or make the play in the field that wins the game,” Rosenberg said. “A parent may take a child to their first game together.

“It will all begin when the umpire says, ‘Play ball!'”

Those words will be spoken just after 3 p.m. today in Baltimore and Jake Arrieta fires his first real pitch in 2012 to catcher Matt Wieters. Then the Orioles and Annapolis lawmakers — and reporters — all will be hard at work.

With lots left to reconcile between a House and Senate budget plan and the Orioles in the midst of yet another rebuilding project this season, how successful the afternoon will be for either group is up for serious debate.