The MLB Fan Cave is something I never thought would stick, but it turns out that MLB likes it, because they've done more with it every year. It's a lot of forced gimmicks for publicity with the occasional funny thing - such as classics around here, including Robert Andino and Adam Jones putting birds on things, and Darren O'Day getting pranked for his monowheel thing.
Sam Dingman, one of the masterminds behind the Baltimorons podcast (disclaimer: Sam had me on his podcast once last year), is the lone Orioles fan to make the final group for the MLB Fan Cave voting this time around. If you've ever talked to me for five minutes, you probably know I have a permanent Baltimore inferiority complex chip on my shoulder, so any recognition for our teams or our city is a plus in my book. Sam is willing to give up six months of his life to keep putting a bird in the Fan Cave.
If you'd like to support Sam - which you can do without signing up for any account or anything - just visit the MLB Fan Cave link for him and click "Vote For Me". You can watch Sam's video for yourself before deciding if he is worthy of representing Orioles fans everywhere in this endeavor.
Also, if you're still not convinced, I did a little Q&A with Sam to satisfy myself for his Orioles fan bona fides.
What's the story of you being an Orioles fan?
I’ve been an O’s fan since about 1990. My profile on the Fan Cave page pegs me as a Brooklynite, but I grew up in Alexandria, VA back when the Nationals were naught but a hopeful ripple in the Potomac River. As such, my dad was, in addition to being a stats nerd of the first order, a ravenous O’s fan, and we used to go to games at Memorial Stadium every summer with the guys in his fantasy league.
The first game I remember clearly featured Kirby Puckett rapping a hard line drive towards the hole, a surefire single except for the fact that Cal was, of course, shifted to his left in anticipation of Puckett’s tendencies. His throw beat Puckett by ten steps, and I remember my dad pointing out that this was what made Ripken such a brilliant defender. When we’d watch games at home, he always insisted that we turn down the volume so we could listen to the wit and insight of Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller on the radio. Later, as the team was mulling which name to give its new stadium, I remember him adamantly insisting that it had to be a name like "Oriole Park" or "Camden Yards," as opposed to a meaningless corporate handle. Once the park opened, he got me excused from school for opening day every year, and we’d watch every minute of all the silly opening ceremonies right through until the final out. He loved the minutiae and culture of the game as much as the stats and competition, and I think it gave me a strong appreciation for the sort of folksy, vaguely spiritual aspect of baseball from an early age.
Later, unfortunately, things got bad between him and my mom. On difficult weekend afternoons, when things were tense in the house, I often escaped outside to stand on our front stoop with my grandfather’s old Spalding bat. I’d play out entire nine-inning ballgames in my head, imitating the batting stances of each O’s player and their opponent. Similarly, as I’ve grown older, through the stresses of bad break-ups, the questionable life decision to reside in New York, and other various curveballs of early adulthood, I’ve found that my love for the Orioles has deepened even further. It keeps me in touch with my roots, and makes me feel like there’s something joyful and complex and fulfilling I can look to when the rest of my life gets gloomy or frustrating.
I co-host an O’s-themed podcast (with my friend and fellow O’s fan-in-exile Alan Smith) called "Baltimorons" which I hope conveys some of this. But most of all, I take extreme pleasure in the fact that settling in on my couch for an evening of Orioles baseball feels as perfect today as it did in 1990, and I doubt that’s ever going to change.
What was your favorite moment from the 2012 season?
It feels a little obvious to pick a moment from the playoffs, but I have to. When Jim Johnson struck out Alex Rodriguez to end Game 2 of the ALDS, the scream that went up from the throats of the Camden faithful was unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I had taken a sick day from work and driven down to Baltimore with my girlfriend and Alan, despite the fact that the team was going to be in New York, where we live, later that week. But being there to see JJ punch out A-Rod was more than worth the trip. There was so much to love about it--here was this frail, weakened symbol of the Yankee dynasty under whose thumb we’ve wriggled for so many years, waving helplessly at pitches he used to pummel, both he and his team walking back to the clubhouse bewildered by this unlikely Oriole juggernaut that refused to knuckle under the way they had for the last 14 years. The scream reverberated through my chest and seemed like it was making the stands vibrate--it was like we were all letting go of all the pain at the same time.
Tell us about one bad Orioles player you irrationally liked, and why.
I always had a soft spot for Jeff Reboulet, mostly because I was at a game once where he hit a home run off Randy Johnson. There was something absolutely delicious about this diminutive utility man with a neatly-trimmed mustache jogging politely around the bases while Johnson, in all his giant gangly dominance, stood there in absolute disbelief.
Are you buying Dan Duquette's strategy of bringing back the same team as last year?
I’m trying to! To my mind, we really did finally have an opportunity to deal from a strong position this off-season--I think it would have been reasonable to sell high on someone like Chris Tillman or Chris Davis to get that "impact bat" we were supposedly so seriously pursuing. Actually, my juiciest (and perhaps most delusional) fantasy had us sending the two of them to Boston for Jon Lester.
That said, ultimately I think it’s hard to find too much fault with Duquette’s approach, mostly because I don’t think anything he’s done is going to make the team measurably worse, which throwing money at last-gasp free agents like Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero did, in my opinion. And I certainly didn’t want to be the team paying for America to watch the Josh Hamilton Show, with all its frustrating plot-twists. I’m also not one for bad-mouthing Andy MacPhail generally, but I do think he had a bad habit of making signings for the sake of making signings, whereas Duquette seems dead-set against it. I want to say I’m reassured by our strong base of young players, but that was used as an excuse for front-office inaction for so long during the Fourteen Year Itch that I’m just not comfortable saying it with a straight face yet.
The one thing I do view as a colossal mistake would be failing to bring back Joe Saunders. With the degree to which durable, solid starting pitching has been a gaping hole for us for so long, not to mention the apparently thin market for his services, it’s a complete mystery to me why a two-year deal didn’t make sense for the Orioles.
What makes a person - specifically, you - want to give up six months of his life in the MLB Fan Cave?
In my life outside of obsessively following the Orioles, I’m also an actor, writer, and musician. I’ve been performing comedy shows around New York City and at festivals across the country over the last few years, and the chance to co-host a daily baseball-themed nonsense party sounds pretty extraordinary to me. I think it’s an opportunity to merge my passions in a really exciting way. Plus, it offers me the chance to show the world that Orioles fans have more fun.
Sam has personally sworn to me on the Precious that he will do what is in his power to make sure the Orioles get their share of Fan Cave love. That's good enough for me. Again, if you'd like to support him, all you have to do is vote here, which requires no effort on your part other than clicking a button. Voting ends on February 13 at 5pm. Make yours count now if you'd like to help put a Birds fan in the 2013 MLB Fan Cave.