On my fifth birthday, my parents announced that we were going bird watching. They grabbed some binoculars and hopped in the car. Being an impressionable five-year old, I thought my parents were legitimately taking me to watch birds somewhere. Instead, our aviary adventure took us to a plot of land on 33rd Street. It was the first time I had ever seen a baseball game in person. The game was not particularly memorable. Jim Traber made his major league debut, but the O's lost 8-0 to the Red Sox as Oil Can Boyd pitched a five-hit shutout.
From that first day, I was hooked as an Orioles fan. We went as often as we could. We were in the stands to see Billy Ripken's major league debut. In July of 1988 we saw both games of a doubleheader against Minnesota (O's won the first, lost the second) where everybody who attended the game got an awesome Fan For All Seasons pin. And of course following that came 1989. They say the impression that baseball fans have is set during the season in which they turn ten years old. Anybody who remembers watching that Why Not year knows how magical a season it was, filled with hope, triumph, and (at least on that October Saturday in Toronto) utter despair.
A well spent youth as an Orioles fan gave me a mountain of memories, ones that I still foster to this day. I've been fortunate enough to be a season ticket plan holder for these last few seasons. I've gotten to see the Orioles on the road in several cities; I got to see the Orioles play at Tiger Stadium (an ugly game if it ever was one). I got to see the Orioles light up Mike Mussina like a firecracker in the final season at Yankee Stadium. And nothing may ever top the experience of being at Game 2 of the Division Series against Detroit in 2014.
Regardless of how the Orioles play this year, 2016 will be a special season for me. Last April, we announced that we were expecting in the only way that we as Orioles fans could think of. During the offseason, our daughter was born. We're not waiting until she's five to get her to first game ex utero; she'll be attending her first game sometime this month.
Connecting our daughter to the heritage of the team and the heritage of our primary city is just as important to me as teaching her about the game. I don't have to tell this corner of the internet about our city's connections to sports legends of the past. Frank, Brooks, Boog, Eddie, and Cal are names that still resonate among baseball fans decades after they took the field. In today's society, those connections mean something. The Orioles are our team, a point of our regional pride as much if not more so than crabs, Berger cookies, Natty Boh or John Waters movies. Many of those of us who stuck with the team through the lean years are extremely proud of the way the organization has turned itself around. We understand the importance of the name on the front of the jersey and the pride that we see in having our team take the field representing our city.
Those lean years are actually a fantastic life lesson. Sometime when she's older, I'll sit down with our daughter and tell her the history of the club, from the high points through the low points and to the team's more recent success. The Orioles are proof positive that not everything in life is milk and honey. We go through down times, lean years, and occasions where things don't always work out. It's a good reality check when so many people are being taught that they should expect success and demand satisfaction right now, when in reality it's important to stick with something that is important and that you're passionate in order to receive positive rewards.
Orioles baseball will not be the most important thing that we teach our daughter about. Nonetheless it's something that I hope that I can enjoy with her (and any future kids, too) for the rest of our lives, much as I still enjoy talking and watching baseball with my parents to this day. A fun, family-friendly, reasonably affordable activity you can do with the kids? What better way exists.
For us, the Orioles will always be a family affair.
Brian Griffiths is Editor-in-Chief of RedMaryland.com. His musings on politics, sports, pro wrestling and other topics can be found on Twitter @BrianGriffiths.
The stories presented as part of the 2016 Camden Chat Opening Day Marathon are written by members of our community. To add your voice to the site please consider writing a FanPost.