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Put a bird on that kid: My mission to raise an Orioles fan in enemy territory

It's hard enough raising kids. Imagine having to raise them in Yankee Country?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I got into baseball thanks to my mother, who loves the game as much or more than anyone I know. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of going to Camden Yards with her, usually right when the gates opened so that I might have some small chance at getting a pre-game autograph or catching a batting practice ball.

She grew up in the Midwest as a Tigers fan. She moved around a lot, but when she settled in Maryland as an adult she decided to adapt to her new home by following the Orioles (and later the Nationals, but we won't get into that). I left Maryland in 2009 and have now lived in the New York metro area for almost seven years. In that time I've gotten engaged and married, changed jobs twice, and welcomed a wonderful and energetic baby girl into the world. As you can probably tell, one thing I have not done is follow my mom's example of local sports assimilation. Not only that, I have decided to enact a plan that will hopefully ensure my daughter likes the teams that were local to my childhood home, not hers.

Let me start by acknowledging the obvious hypocrisy: When I was still in Maryland, I hated it when people who lived their whole lives in the Old Line State would justify their Yankees hat or Steelers jersey with parental ties to New York or Pittsburgh. "Well, you're from Maryland," I would snidely reply as I saddled up my highest horse.

But I'll ask you to forgive my hypocrisy in light of where I now live. The idea of my daughter becoming a Yankees fan is, frankly, sickening. I actually get lightheaded when I think about it. Mets fandom wouldn't be so objectionable, but if I'm going to direct her to a specific team, why not go the full nine and put a Bird on that kid?

CStone's kid with a bird on her. Credit:  Craig Stone

So here's my plan, as it is formed thus far: The Yankees shall never grace my television except when they're playing the Orioles. This is made easier as a cord cutter with an subscription, which has the double benefit of making all of the Orioles games available while blacking out Yankees and Mets games. To ensure that Camden Yards is my daughter's baseball home, I will bring her there for her first Major League game and the majority of games she attends after that. By the time she's old enough to be cognizant of the fact that the Orioles aren't actually the local team, I'm hoping she'll have formed an unbreakable bond with her heroes in black and orange.

One major complication is that my in-laws are Yankees fans, so it's entirely realistic that there will be a competition for my daughter's sports affection. My father-in-law has joked that he is willing to babysit frequently from 7 to 10 p.m. throughout the summer, but I've laid out my opposition in no uncertain terms. This includes telling my wife that I will burn any Yankees merchandise that makes its way into our apartment. I even interrupted her dismissive chuckle by assuring her that I am completely serious. Don't test me.

To bolster my plan, I decided to follow the time-honored tradition of seeking child-rearing advice from Internet strangers. Several Camden Chat commenters were kind enough to share tales of their own noble efforts to raise children as Orioles fans outside of Birdland.

O's-less in Seattle has begun indoctrinating his 18-month-old daughter, "making it seem like it's the only natural choice" by watching and listening to many Orioles games throughout the season. "Another thing I've done is to start purchasing an Orioles-related article of clothing at the beginning of each season," he said. "Last year it was a Machado jersey, and this year it was a t-shirt with a cartoon bird on it. She's currently enamored with animals ... so the cartoon bird has been a hit."

Play up the cute and fuzzy angle. Noted.

Another Camden Chatter, tflach2, resides in Tampa and has a similar plan for his 4-year-old son. "I buy him Orioles merchandise. I take him to Orioles games when they are in town against the Rays, and Spring Training when I can."

It seems to be working, for the most part. "I tell him my favorite team is the Orioles, to which he usually replies that his favorite team is also the Orioles," tflach said. "But sometimes he says his is the Red Sox if he is feeling rambunctious ... because I get faux angry about it."

That sounds like something worth getting for-real angry about.

But tflach is clear that he's "not trying to force" Orioles fandom on his son. "We have a 10 game plan for the Rays this year. We'll go to one or two Orioles games, but they only play one weekend series here all season and it is the week before my wife's due date. So a majority of the games won't be Orioles games." He also notes that, because of stadium giveaways, his son will end up owning Rays gear.

This is too risky for my liking. I will not be purchasing a Mets partial season ticket plan, and I think it goes without saying that I won't be purchasing any ticket packages from the other New York franchise. My daughter can get her live baseball fix between Baltimore trips by going to Montclair, N.J, to root on the New Jersey Jackals of the independent Can-Am League, and I will be sure to repeatedly point out that they are the only professional baseball team with her home state on their hat.

At times I have wondered if it's cruel to deny my daughter the pleasure of cheering on the local Major League team, talking baseball with friends who are rooting for the same players, and having a sense of provincial pride that baseball can provide. Sometimes it feels like I'm putting my own interests ahead of my kid's potential enjoyment of sports. To put these hesitations to rest, I reached out to someone whose situation growing up was most like my daughter's.

Camden Chat member hnmnf grew up in New Jersey and, like me, owes his Orioles fandom to his mother. "She is originally from Silver Spring, MD, and grew up a Washington Senators fan.  When they left DC, she eventually became an O's fan because of her love for Cal," he said. "I never had a choice on being a Redskins fan or being an O's fan.

"Most of my friends rooted for the NY teams," hnmnf added, noting that the split was about 80% Yankees, 15% Mets, and 5% other. And while he said it was tough being an O's fan surrounded by Yankees fans, especially when the O's were terrible and the Yankees kept doing that pesky World Series championship thing, he never considered switching allegiances. "I grew to hate all NY teams, but it was quite annoying. It did give me some sort of identity as being unique from everybody else."

His advice to parents who are trying to get their kids to be Orioles fans: "Just do it and pray the O's don't go downhill like the dark years.  That's when it can get rough.  Also pray the Yankees aren't as good as they were during my childhood."

We can all agree on that last part.

All of that said, it's important to keep in mind that these efforts may not mean much either way. O's-less in Seattle points out that he's "not getting too excited about having another baseball buddy. There's a chance she may not like the sport, especially if I make too much of a big deal about it."

Similarly, tflach2 said of his son, "I am not even sure that he will end up into sports at all.  And I won't force him to be.  He likes video games and comic book characters and isn't terribly interested in watching sports with his old man like I was. By the time I was 3, I knew all the teams in MLB and what division they were in. I don't even think he knows who the Yankees are.  And I couldn't name more than 2 members of the Avengers before I had him ... but now I do.  And I'm glad."

That's really sweet, tflach. Especially the part about your kid not knowing who the Yankees are.

Then again, I already passed my mother's maiden name on to my daughter. Maybe I'll also be able to pass along her love of baseball. Just the Orioles, though; not the Nationals.

Craig Stone lives in Jersey City, N.J., and works as an Educational Technology Project Manager in New York. He covered the Washington Capitals and D.C. United for from 2006-2009, and has taught undergraduate journalism classes on sports writing and multimedia reporting. He also co-hosts the Atlantic City and casino business podcast Due For A Win with Camden Chat lurker Kyle Askine. Craig is on Twitter @CStoneNo37.

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.