Rookie Markakis Hits Three Homers

Nick Markakis
Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis unloads for one of his three home runs in the team's 6-3 win over the Twins. (Joe Giza - Reuters)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

BALTIMORE, Aug. 22 -- While fans filed into Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the late afternoon, Baltimore star rookie Nick Markakis clobbered balls to left field, right field and over the center field wall during batting practice. The fans who arrived early had seen quite a show, and perhaps this was a clue, a treat to those prompt fans, that a special night lay ahead.

After Markakis hit the third of his three home runs in the fifth inning of a 6-3 win against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, a fairly modest gathering of 19,756 stood and gave the rookie an ovation that is rarely seen in these parts anymore. Curtain calls are for Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, not Camden Yards.

But the crowd roared when Markakis entered the dugout, and they did not stop cheering until he came out to acknowledge the adulation.

Prompted by the cheers and a push from hitting coach Terry Crowley, Markakis, 22, took a couple of steps out of the dugout and tipped his cap to the crowd. For one fleeting moment, Camden Yards once again was lively; the Orioles, winners of five of the past six games, were a great team, and a star player, much like Cal Ripken had done, shined brighter than any other on the field. Perhaps an heir to the Ripken legacy exists: Markakis, who has six home runs in six games since being moved to the second spot in the lineup last week.

"That's fun, isn't it?" Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo said. "That's great for the ballclub to see the fans react like they did. A whole lot of people should be coming to watch us."

The Orioles hit five home runs against the Twins on Tuesday. Markakis smacked balls over the fence in left-center, right field and center field, much like he had done in batting practice.

"He has no holes in his swing," Orioles designated hitter Jay Gibbons said. "It's fun to watch him grow so quickly."

On the third pitch of his third at-bat, Markakis became the 18th Oriole to homer three times in a game, and the first since Albert Belle in 1999.

When Markakis returned to the field after his home run in the fifth, the crowd once again stood and cheered. In right field, several fans bowed to the emerging star. A third ovation, when Markakis came to the plate in the sixth, ended only after the rookie flied out to left.

"I hit it good, but just under it a little bit," he said, stoic as usual. Markakis seems unfazed by the attention, a refreshing characteristic, Gibbons said.

A collective groan was heard when second baseman Brian Roberts grounded out to end the eighth inning, thereby denying Markakis another chance for his fourth home run. The stands began to empty as the ninth inning began.

"We were hoping for another opportunity in that last at-bat," Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said.

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