It’s been a tough stretch for Baltimore Orioles fans over the past decade.
No matter where you reside – whether it’s in Maryland, Florida, California or any part of the world – it’s been startling to see what has happened to the Orioles.
Sadly, they have not had a winning season since Bill Clinton was president of the United States of America.
Yet, despite it all, I and most of my friends who rooted for the Orioles growing up still do so today.
It’s obvious that the Birds have lost more than they have won over the past decade and longer. There have been some crazy moments such as the 30-3 loss to Texas in 2007 (which I saw in person); however, there have been some bright ones as well, such as the nine-run comeback against the Red Sox in 2009.
More times than I’ll admit, I’ve buried my head in my palms, muttered out a few curse words and shaken my head wondering what I have just saw after a painful Orioles loss. Then again, when something amazing has happened or when they’ve scored, I jump up, pump up my fists and shout like a kid to let out my enjoyment.
Through the good, bad and ugly, I’ve remained a follower of the black and orange.
So, why am I a fan?
I often wonder that when I’m by myself or with friends watching a ballgame. I ask myself, “Why I am I here? Isn’t there anything better I should be doing with my time?”
Well, maybe I should be in the gym working out or doing some housework. Or better yet, I’d be well-served at times to save some extra money rather than buying a game ticket, paying for parking, drinks,and food – and having to endure traffic leaving a game.
Simply put, I love the game of baseball and appreciate the Orioles, whether they are winning or mired in a rough patch of losing. Being a baseball fan is a major part of my identity – as I am sure with most readers of this blog entry – and I don’t ever want it to change.
My road to being a hardcore baseball fan is a bit unconventional. Growing up outside of Washington D.C., my family didn’t take me out to ballgames. It was not because of cost or lack of affordability, it was the simple fact that my parents could not stand the sport. They still hate it.
The idea of driving up Interstate 95 to Baltimore City from lower Montgomery County and partaking in a ballgame was like torture to them.
They thought the sport of baseball was ungodly boring and moved way too slow. I can count the times on my hand where a family member took me to a game growing up. Honestly, I wish I could say my father introduced me to the sport and we bonded over it; however, that was not the case.
I’m not sad about that fact; it’s just the way things were. We found other things to do mutually, like watch the Washington Redskins (when they were good).
My family could not see the magic I saw the game. I luckily had cable at home and was able to convince my mother – who was a very strict woman – to order HTS (if some of you are old enough to remember, HTS stands for Home Team Sports, a premium cable channel back in the day) as part of their package.
From there, I became a fan for life of the Orioles and vividly remember the first baseball game I saw at the old ballpark. It was in a game in May, searing hot and it was part of Safety Patrol Day, but I became enamored with the sport and remember seeing Cal Ripken Jr. for the first time.
I thought this guy was larger than life, and seeing him in person after only watching him on TV, it was like a kid visiting Disneyland.
So, whenever I got a chance to go up to an Orioles game during my childhood, I stopped whatever I was doing at the time to head to Memorial Stadium in the late 1980s and later Camden Yards in the 1990s. I often got free tickets from a friend’s dad and rode up with them in their car; however, the minute I got my license at 17, started making the trek in my old Honda whenever I could.
Soon, legends like Ripken, Eddie Murray, as well as Sam Horn, Randy Milligan, Gregg Olson, Billy Ripken, Joe Orsulak and Frank Robinson would be names that would become a very small, but indelible part of my teenage years.
Men such as Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Scott Garecau taught me the game on TV; meanwhile, Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller were golden on the radio when I couldn’t watch on the small screen. They gave me an education on the sport that I could not have gotten anywhere else.
I have met some of the aforementioned names above as an adult and while I try to hold back my giddiness when seeing them; I become a kid again inside and they remind me of childhood memories and why I became a baseball fan.
The next time you’re at Camden Yards – whether you’re sitting close enough to the field that you feel that you can give Adam Jones a fist pump, or you’re in upper deck closer to the Baltimore skyline than the field – think of what makes you a fan.