I don't have a long history of liking players that aren't the popular choices. Growing up I loved Cal and Brady and Hoiles, each a big name in their own right. Even in the darkest years there was a Miguel Tejada or Melvin Mora or Nick Markakis to cling to.
But once, deep into our years of suffering, I loved a player who really wasn't very good. That player was Felix Pie. Pie came to the Orioles a failed Cubs prospect (the Andy MacPhail special!) traded for a couple of nobodies. When the Orioles traded for him, blog runner at the time Scott Christ had this to say:
There are few things I have strong feelings on, and one of them happens to be Felix Pie. I don't think he's any good, and I don't think he's ever going to be any good. I'm not sure he was ever any good.
Scott was mostly right of course. Felix had an ok-ish 2009 season then it went downhill from there. After 2011 he left the Orioles and disappeared in the minors, resurfacing for a few games with the Pirates in 2013 before heading overseas.
So what did I like about a not-very-good outfielder who was never able to harness the talent everyone said he had? I think in hindsight it came down to the fact that the Orioles lost A LOT and I needed something to focus on that wasn't that. Felix was able to give me that because of the way he played the game of baseball. He wore his emotions on his sleeve and his excitement was contagious.
Felix Pie ran the bases like a madman. I'll never forget watching his first home run as an Oriole early in 2009. It was against the Rangers on the road and he circled the bases so quickly that you would have thought there was a chance he could get thrown out.
Pie was often not very good at playing baseball at the MLB level, but when he played well on either defense or offense you could feel his emotions radiating through the TV screen. I liked that a lot about him, watching him play the game like a kid while on a team that was going nowhere in the standings.
I don't have a ton of "will never forget when I saw" moments of the dark days Orioles, but in addition to Pie's first home run I will never forget when he hit for the cycle against the Angels. He stepped to the plate for his last at-bat of the game needed the toughest hit. A triple. As he hit the ball towards right-center field I jumped off my couch yelling "Run Felix!" He slid into third base with his triple and popped up excitedly, clearly thrilled about his accomplishment.
I was thrilled too. Angels manager and perpetual grump Mike Scioscia was not and glared at Felix from the dugout until later Felix felt compelled to apologize. I have never forgiven that guy.
If you were hanging around Camden Chat back in these days you may remember that I declared Pie to be an adorable player. I do take credit/blame for that but if you do a search on "Felix adorable" or "Pie adorable" most of the results are from other people. Classic Camden Chat.
But if you're looking for evidence of his adorability, there is the story of the outfield victory bump. As is the tradition of many teams, the Orioles of Felix Pie's day did the jump and bump after a team win. After some time it turned into an outfield group hug, with the reason being that Felix did not like that his foot kept getting stepped on. I mean, come on!
At this point in time 600 words about Felix Pie is probably 600 too many. But I will always have fond memories of the guy even though he never became a difference maker on the field.