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Washington Nationals’ Matt Wieters on returning to Baltimore to face the Orioles tonight in OPACY

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“I enjoyed my time here and warm reception or not, it won’t change my feelings about the city and about the fans.” - Matt Wieters on returning to Baltimore

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Wieters traded in the black and orange for the red, white and blue when he left the Baltimore Orioles this winter and signed a 1-year/$10.5M free agent deal with the Washington Nationals.

Until he made his debut as the Nationals’ new catcher, every one of Wieters’ 3,468 plate appearances in the majors took place in an Orioles’ uniform.

Drafted out of Georgia Tech by Baltimore with the fifth overall pick of the 2007 Draft, Wieters put up a combined .256/.318/.421 line and an average of 20 games and 15 home runs per season in his eight years with the Orioles following his debut as a 23-year-old catcher in 2009.

Tonight, the now-30-year-old backstop returns to Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time as a member of an opposing team.

Through 24 games and 96 PAs with the Nationals, Wieters has a .274/.365/.476 line, five doubles and four home runs.

In an interview with reporters in the third base dugout in Oriole Park this afternoon, Wieters was asked what it was like to return for the first time to the park he called home for nine seasons.

“It’s a different vantage point for sure,” Wieters said, looking out over Oriole Park from the left side of the field.

“But it was a good feeling coming in today and getting to walk into the yard like I did for so many years. Definitely brought a smile to my face and excited to be able to play here.”

He said he wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of a reception from O’s fans tonight in Baltimore.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I don’t want to really anticipate any reception. I enjoyed my time here and warm reception or not, it won’t change my feelings about the city and about the fans.”

Hard as it was to make the decision to leave Baltimore and eventually sign on in Washington, Weiters said signing with the Nats was his best option this winter.

“Whenever you have to make a decision, you tick away all your options and you take your best option at the time and I felt like D.C. was a good fit for me,” he explained.

“I felt like the team was built to win now which was something I wanted to be a part of and really because of some ways the offseason went, it just was kind of the best fit for me.”

He’ll get his first experience of the Nationals’ side of the regional rivalry tonight, after he put up a .252/.296/.383 line, five doubles and three home runs in 30 games and 115 PAs against Washington during his time in Maryland.

“The nice thing about Baltimore and the great thing about Baltimore is that we all came together and we all learned together,” Wieters said, when asked about what’s different in D.C.

“We all kind of learned the same way, over here everybody’s kind of got different experiences they can throw into the mix.”

He and his new teammates will be facing Orioles’ right-hander Kevin Gausman in the first game of the four-game, two-city series this week.

So does he have a detailed scouting report on the pitcher he caught 49 times when they were together with the O’s?

“I can give them a few tips,” Wieters joked, “but [Gausman’s] still got a pretty good arm and good stuff, so you’re still going to have to get some pitches to hit and not miss them.”

While the Nationals and Orioles haven’t really developed a heated rivalry (on the field at least) since they started playing one another in 2006, Wieters, said both teams enjoying success in the last few seasons raises the stakes when they do play.

“When teams are playing as well as both of us are right now, you kind of get a little bit of that playoff feel,” Wieters explained.

“Any time you can match up two teams that are playing well, it has that kind of, ‘Okay, we got to play our A-game to be able to get a win here,’ and really for the last four or five years it’s been like that.”

“I think when both teams are competitive there’s going to be a rivalry no matter where you are, but when you have the proximity of how close we are and both being on the same network, there’s definitely a little bragging rights that come out of the series.

“At the same time, I think it can be a friendly competition where both teams want to win the series at the same time both teams have bigger goals in mind.”

“It’s going to be a grind to see who can win this series.”