This off season I'm going to spend some time highlighting great Orioles writers around the blogOsphere, and I couldn't think of a better person to start with than Matt Taylor, who's blog Roar From 34 is one of my all time favorites.
RF34 is one of the first Orioles blogs I read consistently, mostly because it's just plain good writing, and also because it doesn't break down the team statistics, it doesn't propose a million trade scenarios, and for the most part it doesn't take a negative read on the O's (which is pretty amazing). RF34's tagline is "Humor. History. Homerism." and it delivers just that. When I read it, I feel good about my team. Perhaps that sounds silly, perhaps some people think that there really isn't much TO feel good about in regards to the Orioles, but we are all fans after all. And why else does one follow sports if not to have something to cheer for? RF34 looks back on the past fondly, comments on the present justly, and generally makes me feel like it's cool to be an O's fan.
I had the pleasure of meeting Matt at MASN's Blogger Night at Camden Yards in May of this year. He was probably the other blogger I was most interested in saying hello to (no offense to the rest of you out there!) because I really wanted to tell him how much I enjoy his writing. Matt was gracious enough to answer a few questions about RF34 for Camden Chat. Check it out after the jump.
1. Roar from 34 was created near the beginning of the 2006 season, meaning you've been going strong through four seasons in which the Orioles' record is 271-376. Do you remember why, in the midst of their 9th consecutive losing season, you decided to devote your time writing about the team? Considering the lows the O's have seen in the past four years, does it ever get hard for you to continue to write?
Roar from 34 got its start when a buddy and I - both writers, both lifelong O's fans - decided to share our thoughts publicly on a blog rather than privately by email. We viewed the blog primarily as an outlet for thoughtful writing about the O's, so our content was pretty good. However, the impersonal voice of our pieces, their length, and the lag time between postings really weren't suitable for a blog.
After a year or two my buddy lost interest, so Roar from 34 became a solo venture. I figured I could use it as a way to learn about blogging and new media while strengthening my connection to the team I grew up with. Also, I like creative work and writing about a losing team for 162 games requires lots of creativity.
I've considered closing down shop on many occasions. I've even started writing the final post in my head. Nevertheless, I always seem to find reasons to keep going.
2. One of the things I really enjoy is your series on Eutaw Street home runs, especially because there doesn't seem to be an accurate tally anywhere on the internet other than at Roar from 34. What made you decide to write about them, and how many more do you still have to write about?
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoy the Eutaw Street Chronicles. It's a lot of work to go through the newspaper archives and gather the stories behind the home runs, but I think it's important to do so. The bronze baseballs on Eutaw Street are one of the unique elements of Camden Yards. Just watch people who are visiting the ballpark for the first time - everyone's looking down at the sidewalk. So I guess I'm trying to fill a void by providing the stories behind each of those baseballs. In my dreams it would also be a neat gift shop book.
The idea came about when I realized, much to my surprise, that there isn't really an archive of stories about each of the Eutaw Street home runs. I went down to Camden Yards in December 2008 and photographed each of the baseballs to compile my original list. At the time the bronze baseballs for the 2008 season had yet to be installed. It's much easier to keep track of Eutaw Street home runs in real time although there do tend to be some false alarms. The announcers will sometimes say that a ball reached Eutaw Street when it actually bounced there from the flag court.
I've still got a long way to go with "The Eutaw Street Chronicles". So far I've given full treatment to about ten "bronze bombers," as I like to call them, with other assorted postings related to Eutaw Street home runs. That leaves 40 or so go ... and counting.
3. You recently moved out of Maryland, correct? What kind of adjustments did you have to make when you went from local fan to long distance fan? Did it affect your blogging habits at all?
I moved to North Carolina in August 2008. Following the team was initially very difficult because Time Warner, the lone cable provider in my area, refuses to show MASN. It's a long-running dispute that hurts the organization and fans living in the area. Crys, who writes on the blog Sixteen Gold Gloves, lives in Charlotte and had a similar experience.
MLB Extra Innings blacks out games locally as well, so I had no way of watching the O's after I moved. I was particularly outraged when I arrived home on Opening Day this season expecting to see the Birds play the Yankees on ESPN; instead, I learned that even the "Worldwide Leader" can't show the Orioles in North Carolina.
There's a long back story that ends with my becoming a DISH Network subscriber because they show MASN. I also subscribed to MLB Radio this season because I love the guilty pleasure of listening to daytime baseball at work.
Ultimately, living away from Baltimore has deepened my appreciation for the Orioles. I developed my connection to the team as a kid growing up in the local area, and I have many fond memories of summer nights spent at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. I'll still make a trip or two to Baltimore each summer, and I make it a point to stop by Durham Bulls Athletic Park when the Norfolk Tides are in town. It's also cool that there are Brian Roberts fans down here (he's a Durham native) along with some Orioles connections to UNC (B.J. Surhoff was one of the school's all-time greats).
4. You spend a lot of time writing about the Orioles past. How far back do you remember, Orioles-wise? Any poignant first memories of the Birds?
I'll never forget my father's excitement after the team won the '83 World Series. He bounded out the front door of our house, hopped into the car, and started honking the horn like crazy. That's probably my first memory related to a specific baseball game. It's hard to believe that the O's haven't won a World Series since; when they do, you'd better believe I'll be honking a car horn somewhere.
I also have a lot of general O's memories. I used to pretend the carpet in the basement of my house was the Memorial Stadium grass and I was John Lowenstein making diving catches and stealing home runs from the cheap seats. I can remember vividly my confusion as a child about why seats in the front row were considered cheap. But that's what the announcers called them so who was I to argue?
What I've realized in recent years - largely because of the blog - is that my connection to baseball generally and to the Orioles specifically is a function of these types of memories. Baseball is a game of moments and the memories they create. And not all of the moments have to be big ones. In fact, the lesser known stories are often the best ones. I still marvel sometimes at the recollection of a long foul ball Sam Horn hit at Memorial Stadium.
5. Give me one bold prediction for the Orioles in the 2010 season. It can be about a specific player, the entire team, Peter Angelos, whatever.
Unless I'm overlooking someone the Orioles haven't had a 20-20 player for a decade.
Nick Markakis totaled 23 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 2007. Brian Roberts had 16 home runs and 30 stolen bases in 2009. That's as close as anyone has gotten since Brady Anderson hit 24 home runs and stole 36 bases in 1999.
My bold prediction for 2010 is that the O's will have their first 20-20 player since 1999. I'll take Adam Jones to be the one to do it. Heck, maybe even two guys will do it. Imagine if Jones and Markakis both chased 20-20 in the same season. Would they rename the promotion 2020 Eutaw Street?
6. Finally, if your goal was pick the one or two entries on your blog that best encapsulate everything that Roar from 34 is about, what would they be?
My tag line for Roar from 34 is "Humor. History. Homerism." Between "Flashback Fridays" and "The Eutaw Street Chronicles," history should probably come first in that list.
One of my favorite "Flashback Fridays" was an Aug. 14, 2009 piece about Willie Tasby. People know him for being the guy who played center field in his socks because he was afraid of lightning, but Tasby deserves to be remembered for more than that quirky incident in 1959. Here's the link: Flashback Friday: Shoeless Willie Joe Tasby
One of my favorite "Eutaw Street Chronicles" entries is about the first Oriole to hit a Eutaw Street home run: Kevin Bass. Yes, Kevin Bass. He did it on June 8, 1995. Jeff Manto hit two home runs in that game. Yes, Jeff Manto. Here's the link: Eutaw Street Chronicles: June 8, 1995
Thanks so much to Matt for his thoughtful answers. If you haven't read Roar from 34, I highly recommend you take some time this off season to get to know it. Here are a few more hand picked entries from yours truly. Consider them, along with Matt's picks above, your Roar from 34 primer.