Archive for the ‘2008 Season’ Category

Our Os are Back

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

How about that bottom of the 8th comeback. Huff has made strides toward recovery. Rejoicing was had.

Opening Day

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

There’s so much to say about the weekend. I posted some pictures on Nomadic Traveler but haven’t had a chance to tell any of the stories yet. I’ll have to write later about Fan Fest and the nice Orioles couple we met, Dave and Phyllis, the Davidson game, the other Davidson game, lecturing my seven year old great nephew (the punk had it coming – you’ll see, you’ll agree), visiting friends and family, the trip to D.C. and how homesick I feel every time I visit Baltimore, and of course, my wonderful husband, who understands that certain things are important to me even if he’ll never be able to comprehend why.

First priority is writing about Opening Day.

My Orioles blogger friends no doubt saw the game, so I needn’t recount the play by play of the game, but I will share some details about the experience of being there.

Let’s start with Monday morning. It was drizzling and cold in Baltimore. All weekend, I kept checking the weather forecast to see if the prediction for scattered showers had changed. Then I would check the radar and make my own guess. By Monday morning, it was all still uncertain as to whether the game would be rained out or delayed. What to do. What to do.

Originally, I wanted to arrive at Camden Yards at 10:30, even though game time was 3:00 p.m. How I planned to occupy myself during all that time, I don’t know, I just didn’t want to miss anything. Instead, tempering myself, I decided that if I didn’t get to Camden Yards until after noon, it would probably still be okay, OPACY would still be there, and it was rather unlikely that I would have missed anything (“It’ll be okay, it will be okay.”).

In an effort to pose as a somewhat more rational person, we spent the morning at my old university to see how it had changed, and, more importantly, to purchase some Retrievers t-shirts in preparation for next year when they’ll make it to Sweet Sixteen. I’ll elaborate more later on how lovely the new campus is and how lucky (spoiled rotten) today’s kids are. What’s important for this story is that the campus tour killed a couple of hours, by which time the weather had cleared up, and assured that the game would be on, so off to Camden Yards I went.

I was so happy to be there. I was two hours early, it was still cold and overcast and do you think I cared? Not a bit. I was grateful to have a ticket and grateful that the game wasn’t rained out. I watched the grounds crew do their usual thing, remove the tarp, roll it up, smooth the infield, and paint the lines, and additional crew set up a dramatic Opening Day ceremony, arranging the fireworks, an archway made of orange balloons and a long orange runway spanning from the outfield fence to the infield.

Then I purchased my beer, hamburger and fries and returned to my seat to watch some more. (A conversation Friday went on for too long about hot dogs and it put me off them.) I was still the only one seated in the Club Boxes and there was only a smattering of people in the stadium.

A bit later, Christopher, my waiter came by and said, “I’m your waiter.” I exclaimed, “I have a waiter?” I was only kidding in my blog post when I suggested I might have one. Tragically though, I wasn’t able to use Christopher’s services as the beer choices on the ordering card were beverages I would only ever drink if I was in the middle of a desert and had gone for days without any liquid and grown tired of my own urine.

Before the game started there was a dramatic display of announcing each of the Orioles, who ran one by one through the arch of balloons and down the runway before lining up along the infield. I wondered what sort of reception Huff would receive. Predictably, he was booed. (More on that later.) Trembley and Jones both got a lot of love, as did the returning Orioles. Most of the rest, always preceded with a “Welcome to Baltimore” received more of a golf clap. Then there were fireworks to make it all more dramatic. It was delicious.

I relished the O in the anthem. I enjoyed keeping score in my own relaxed fashion. I was fascinated with watching Shields’ most unusual pitching ritual, a deep stoop, then the nod, then the wind up. (Maybe it distracted the Orioles batters.) It was all so good. Even when we started losing to Tampa Bay, I still found myself thinking, “I wish I could be here every day.” (I did involuntarily swear when Mora dropped the ball that should have been an out at home, but at least it was a mild expletive. Even so, I need to work on that. I don’t know how, but somehow I need to figure it out.)

In the end, as you all know, our Os lost to Tampa Bay. I’d say that’s a pretty bad omen for the rest of the season (and have), but it’s just one game. Maybe we’ll pull it together yet.

What a gift to be at the game! Finally, after so many years of wishing I could be at Opening Day and vowing, “next year, I’ll have to go.”

I wish the story ended there, but I have to be honest and tell the whole story. There were two things that annoyed me yesterday. One is that “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was cut waaaaay short. I was hot. You don’t mess with tradition like that.

The other, I tell you with utter disgust. You may have heard that Huff was booed every time his name was announced. I’m going to make a case in defense of him. Perhaps his message about Baltimore was taken out of context. Perhaps he was referring to the fans, in which case, I’m right there with him. I’m not talking about the 6,000 fans who were at the game and actually cared about baseball or the Orioles. I mean the rest of the fans who either didn’t bother to show up, or came, but stayed inside the Club Boxes socializing and dangling their pinky finger as they ever so delicately sipped their Budweiser. It was Opening Day and the stadium wasn’t even half full. Two men to one side of me left in the fourth inning. The two hoodle-heads sitting in front of me, I don’t think saw a single out, pitch, or bat. They talked through the entire game. Granted, I’ve done that on rare occassion myself, but never on Opening Day. When I went inside, there were gobs of people standing around not paying a lick of attention to the game, drinking, chatting, and I guess being seen. Why bother to come?

I lamented this later in a moment of gossip to the usher, who agreed, but then added, “Well, you have to give the fans a product they want to see.” Here is where you might want to stop reading because I’m about to launch into a full-on tirade. (No, I’ve only just warmed up.) The next time someone expresses a sentiment like that, I’m going to knee him in the misters. If it’s a chick, I’ll pull her hair out or something.

Is this a symptom of our instant gratification society? We want everything we want, and we want it now. It got me thinking what this reflects about our society and our values? What does America believe now? Is the only time to support your team when they’re winning? Or, here’s an idea, do you stand behind the team through the bad years too? Do you stand behind your family through the hard times or give up on them and kick them out if there’s a rough patch? Should parents only cheer for their children when they’re getting straight A’s or are the star on the Little League team? No, of course not, right? Is this, “They’re only my team when they’re good” thinking the same thinking that results in our high divorce rate?

Here’s my stance. You’re either a fan or you’re not. You don’t get to call yourself a fan when you only follow the team when they’re winning. To all those fans, I say, “We don’t need you. You can keep your Yankee or Boston cap and keep selling your soul to the devil.” I could say more about corporate boxes, the price of tickets, the atmosphere, but I’ll stop there. I’m sure those of you who care about the Orioles already know what I’m thinking.

Of all the words I hate to eat, I retract my comment about hating Red Sox fans–and I’m talking here about those who are real fans, not just recent fans of a winning team. I will never like them coming to MY stadium and being all loud-mouthed (and they have been since the 70s), but I do respect them for standing by their team and knowing the meaning of fan support.

Maybe Huff was on to something (I booed him anyway 🙂 ). Sadly, a lot of people who were able to get tickets to yesterday’s game didn’t deserve them. My husband watched the game from a bar instead of sitting in the empty seat beside me. When the Orioles wonder why there isn’t a lot of energy in the stadium or fan support, one place they can find an answer is inside the Club Box.

In the end, sure it hurt a little to lose to Tampa Bay, but loss or win, Opening Day gets two thumbs up. It was worth the cost, the drive, and the five hours of sleep last night to get back to Charlotte in time for work this morning.

Hopefully you enjoyed the game as much as I did, because whether you were there in person, no matter that we lost, our ORIOLES ARE BACK and they have those of us in the diaspora who will always love ’em.

I’ll post the pictures from the game as soon as I get a chance.

Fan Fest

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008. Fan Fest at Camden Yards.

Q: What’s great about Fan Fest?
A: Meeting other Orioles fans who love the team as much as you do and getting a great picture of Boog Powell.

There were a lot of giveaways and I missed those, but it was worth the wait in line to get Boog’s autograph.

Opening Day Anticipation

Monday, March 24th, 2008

At this time next week, I’ll be sitting in Camden Yards (hopefully) watching my first Opening Day in eighteen years, close to the same number of years I went without missing one.

In elementary school, I remember on the mornings of Opening Day, handing over to my teacher my mom’s note excusing me from class that afternoon. Without a note you couldn’t leave. At my school, many students left early for the game, and too many pathetic others didn’t. Too self-absorbed in my own joy, I admit to having little empathy for those left behind as they looked on, visibly covered in envy, when the teacher released us, “Everyone going to Opening Day can leave now.” Ahhh!! Sweet release. We weren’t concentrating on the lesson anyway. The minute we heard those words, the classroom was filled with the loud screeching of chairs as we pushed away from our desks, hurriedly gathered our things and rushed out of the building as fast as we could. The walk home was more of a jog and sometimes an outright run from the west side of the stadium parking lot where my school was, to the north corner, where my home was.

Now it’s six days before Opening Day and, like a little kid again, my anticipation is building. It’s getting harder to think about anything besides my visit to Baltimore. Today the weather forecast predicts the game temperature will be 54 degrees. Brrrr. Yesterday, the forecast was for rain, so things are looking up. I’d be mighty disappointed if the game was rained out after all this.

I can’t remember an Opening Day when I wasn’t cold despite my mom’s diligence in always remembering a blanket. Even on the warmer days, if you were lucky enough to have a seat in the sun, it would only be lovely for a brief time until the earth’s rotation slowly moved you into the shadows, making the reliable breeze all the more noticeable and chilling. Sometimes, I admit, I just didn’t dress warmly enough, overly enthusiastic about Opening Day symbolically delineating the start of warm weather…

For me, Opening Day had more significance than just a chance to see the Orioles play. It marked, to my mind, the first day of Spring, the end of winter, a time to shed the heavy winter clothes and don the brighter, more cheerful ones. The start of baseball was a return to all the fun and excitement that happened right there in my neighborhood. The energy from the throngs of crowds walking up my street to the game, swinging their coolers and seat cushions as they went, the traffic and horns on 36th Street, Rex Barney’s announcements over the PA, the cheers of the crowd, even the crack of the bat that echoed through the stadium on the quiet days.

I learned to distinguish the sounds of the crowd. When I was trying to study and couldn’t listen to the game, I knew from the intensity of the cheer when to turn on the radio to catch Chuck Thompson announcing a grand moment. I learned to distinguish the cheers for a hit from an RBI or an outstanding catch. The simultaneous swell of an excited, anticipatory “HUUUUUH” followed by the deflated “awww” as thirty or forty thousand fans lamented in unison when the ball fell just to the wrong side of the foul pole. All beautiful sounds from my childhood.

I knew Memorial Stadium better than the back of my own hands. I sat in every section, played on the ramps with my best friends, Betsy and Cathy, as we raced up and down them, just because, ran through the rows after the games collecting left ticket stubs, again, just because. Sometimes I was in the box seats, sometimes in Section 34 with Wild Bill. My brother and sister-in-law met there, in Wild Bill’s section, and have been married for over twenty years. That says it all about the magic of that place and time.

If we weren’t at the game, we were often listening to it on the radio. Some of my favorite memories are of the times my family sat together on our back porch eating my father’s delicious grilled hamburgers, perfectly flavored with Big Boy’s Seasoning and perfectly done, a little on the rare side. To this day, no one’s burgers match dad’s. Or, we’d eat a couple dozen crabs. Mom would cook corn on the cob to go on the side, cover the table in newspaper, put out the mallets, fill our water glasses, load up the table with napkins and we’d start picking away for hours to get every bit of that delicious meat. All the while, the little radio at the end of the table broadcasting the game as we listened simultaneously to the cheers across the street and Chuck Thompson’s gripping and enthusiastic commentary.

I marked the seasons by baseball. I didn’t realize it until I moved to Tampa. The first Spring came so undramatically, as fittingly subtle as the change in weather. I felt like something was missing in my life for a long time, though I couldn’t figure out what it was. I attributed it to the contrast of seasons and change of weather from the North. I would attend public events, like street festivals or the State Fair and leave feeling vaguely like it was all anti-climactic. Where are the fun things, the “happening things?” Why could I never seem to find them? Where were the people and the real crowds?

It wasn’t until Tampa hosted a Superbowl that I realized what I had been searching for. In an instant, the energy and excitement took me back to home. It was only then that I realized that for my whole life, the crowds had come to me. For twenty-two years, activity buzzed about outside my window all spring and summer and I grew up in the middle of it all.

Baseball. Do you wonder why I love it? The Orioles are intertwined with priceless family memories and good times with my friends. The Orioles are not just a sport, they’re an integral part of my being. No one can really know me without understanding that these experiences and events were such a rich and important part of my formative years. Perhaps this is why it’s difficult for me to watch a game and pretend like the outcome doesn’t matter. On an intellectual level, I know it’s a sport, but on an emotional level, I’m deeply tied to the Orioles.

This will be my first Opening Day at Camden Yards. I don’t know OPACY or what to expect in terms of my seat. What does Club Box mean anyway? The cost of the seat suggests that I will have my own personal tushy warmer and space heater. Maybe even a waitress. My head is filled with imaginings of sitting in the stands, sipping a Sam Adams and biting into a relish and mustard loaded hot dog on a perfectly soft potato bun, neglected scorecard laying in my lap while I eat.

I look forward to things that other people probably don’t care about, like the peacefulness of watching the grounds crew smooth the field and paint the lines before the game. I’ll relish the sounds of the crowd, the undulations of sleepy silence when no one seems to be paying attention with the bugle calls for Charge! and raving, clapping, and stomping. The sounds of each player’s song as he comes up to bat. And most importantly, my favorite two sounds…the O in the last verse of the anthem and the seventh inning stretch with “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

Every few minutes I update my travel list with another item to pack: binoculars, baseballs, pen for signatures, Orioles t-shirt…COAT, blanket…

It’s almost here. Six days, twenty hours, twenty-nine minutes to go…