SAN FRANCISCO — For much of the year, LaMonte Wade Jr.’s life is here, at Oracle Park, playing first base for the Giants. But, as he reminisced in the clubhouse Saturday afternoon, Wade underscored just how much his Maryland roots shine through.
He returns each offseason to Owings Mills, where he grew up. He makes the trip to College Park, where he attended the University of Maryland, to train with his former teammates-turned-coaches. And on Friday night his first-pitch home run that sailed into McCovey Cove unleashed an amalgam of emotions that still hadn’t fully sunk in by Saturday.
That blast from Wade was the 100th ball to reach McCovey Cove in Oracle Park history, and streamers flew around the ballpark between the first and second innings to celebrate. Adding to the scene, though, is that it came against the Orioles, the team he rooted for growing up.
“It is special playing against the hometown team,” Wade said, before switching his focus once more to his current allegiance with another team sporting black and orange: “Wish we could’ve won, but it’s all good.”
Wade has made his name with San Francisco, breaking through as the Giants’ everyday first baseman this season. He was recognized before Saturday’s game for his place in Oracle Park history. But his heart still belongs to Maryland.
The 29-year-old can still rattle off the names of the Orioles players he watched growing up, from Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo to his favorite, Adam Jones.
His school chorus once sang the national anthem at Camden Yards. His parents took him to a few games at the ballpark, and the Orioles were playing on their TV whenever they weren’t present. And the local star at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville played in Camden Yards during the 2012 Brooks Robinson high school all-star game, where he met Jones before the outing.
“Just jitters,” Wade told The Baltimore Sun after that high school showcase. “You’re playing in Oriole Park.”
The jitters weren’t there this weekend in his first matchup against Baltimore, although they might arrive if he finds himself standing in against another Maryland connection.
Wade remembers facing Orioles left-hander Bruce Zimmermann in high school; Zimmermann attended Loyola Blakefield, a rival of St. Paul’s that knocked Wade and his team out of the playoffs one year.
“Got to face him a few times there and definitely hoping to get another crack at it,” Zimmermann said. “A little MIAA matchup here hopefully this weekend.”
That makes one of them.
“I know I didn’t win too many of those,” Wade said. “I wish him nothing but the best. He’s a really good guy. Hopefully I don’t have to see him this series. I hope he can just keep having success when they leave.”
And even on the West Coast Wade remains locked in on what the Terps are doing. He watched Maryland’s win against Northeastern in the first game of its regional Friday, and the draw for the team reminds Wade of what his Terps teammates had in 2015.
That year, Maryland drew UCLA, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. They did the same this season with No. 1 seed Wake Forest. And Wade, who talks frequently with Maryland coaches Rob Vaughn, Matt Swope and Anthony Papio, is hoping for a similar result.
That 2015 edition of the Terps knocked off the Bruins. The 2023 version was aiming for the same against the Demon Deacons in a game that began late Saturday night after a long rain delay.
“They have a great squad. They have a really good team,” Wade said. “Those top three hitters are dangerous, very good hitters, and they’re going to have great pro careers. So they’re doing great things over there.”
Late Friday night — and into early Saturday morning in Maryland — Wade and his parents talked on the phone. There was a lot of screaming, Wade said with a laugh, as his parents celebrated his momentous McCovey Cove homer against his hometown team.
Emily and LaMonte Sr. are set to fly to San Francisco this month to spend time with their son in his adopted home. But they still live near Baltimore and, along with his fond memories, that’s where Wade remains — even when he plays on the opposite coast.