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Schoop looking forward to return to Baltimore

Minnesota Twins second baseman Jonathan Schoop (16) against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on April 7, 2019. Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — As Jonathan Schoop’s name was announced and he dug in for his first at-bat at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., in March, he was a little surprised by the loud applause he received.

Ed Smith Stadium, the spring training home of the Baltimore Orioles, was a familiar place for Schoop. And Schoop was a familiar face for the fans in attendance at the stadium.

“I didn’t expect that, so I got nervous a little bit, but it’s a good nervous, like they appreciate me,” Schoop said Friday.

The Twins’ second baseman, who debuted for the Orioles as a 21-year-old in 2013, will likely receive a similarly warm welcome Saturday when he plays his first game as a visitor at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Schoop’s return had to wait one more day as Friday’s Twins-Orioles game was postponed because of rain.

“Tomorrow we’ll see what they do. If they do it, I’m happy. I’m going to take my cap off because I became a big-leaguer here and my career became big-league here,” he said. “I’m on a different journey now, but I’ve got to appreciate the fans here and the people that gave me the chance.”

Schoop signed with the Orioles in 2008 as an amateur free agent. He hit a home run in his major league debut and established himself in Baltimore, playing for the O’s for parts of six seasons. In that time, he became a fan favorite.

Schoop was an all-star in 2017, slashing .293/.338/.503 with 32 home runs and 105 runs batted in. But as the Orioles endured one of the worst seasons in major league history last year, tumbling to a 47-115 record, Schoop was shipped off to a contending-Milwaukee Brewers team ahead of the trade deadline. He signed a deal with the Twins in the offseason.

While his friend, Manny Machado, knew a trade was coming, Schoop said he didn’t expect it even though his agent told him not to be surprised if something happened.

“They never told me (anything) like ‘Hey, you might get traded,’ at least for me to think about it,” Schoop said. “It’s difficult when they trade you and you go into a different clubhouse. You’ve been here for your whole career and then they trade you. It’s like it’s different like you’re walking into a new school, but it’s a new journey here. It’s in the past. That trade made me a better player and it made me a better man, so it will show this year.”

With the trade and free agency behind him, Schoop was excited to return to a place that had meant so much to him. He counts the 2014 playoffs, in which the Orioles made it to the American League Championship Series before falling to the Royals, among his best memories at Camden Yards.

“(I’m) nervous but good nervous. (There’s) anxiety, so I want to get out there,” Schoop said. “I want to play. This is my first major league game (back) at Camden, so I’ve got a lot of memories at Camden and a lot of history.”

With an unexpected off night on Friday, Schoop was preparing to catch up with some friends from his time in Baltimore.

And then, he’s excited to get back on the field on Saturday and play again in a place he knows so well.

“Any time you play somewhere and spend a long part of your life in a certain spot and you build relationships in places and you enjoy the fans and the fans enjoy you a little bit, whenever you return and come back, it is special,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think the people here in Baltimore had a chance to spend time around a very special guy in Jon Schoop, and I think and I hope that he gets the welcome back that he deserves because he gave this city and the fans here a lot.”