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Why I’m a fan of the Orioles

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There’s a new look to SB Nation and a new slogan too: Come Fan With Us. We’d like to know the story of why you’re an Orioles fan.

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Welcome to the refreshed Camden Chat! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to do the same, head over to the FanPosts to begin. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card [contest rules]. We’re collecting all of the stories here. Come Fan With Us!

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There are surely hundreds of reasons why I’m an Orioles fan, but the most important one is simple: I was born around Baltimore to Orioles fan parents and have spent my whole life around Baltimore, around Orioles fans, going to Orioles games.

When you grow up hearing about how, when your parents got married in October of 1979, people kept going out to their cars to hear how the Orioles were doing, and how, when you were a month shy of being born in 1983, your parents went to see the Orioles in the World Series, some things are pretty much settled. They won on both of those days, by the way.

It wasn’t very hard to be an Orioles fan growing up. The first season I really remember is the Why Not? Orioles of 1989. There was always Cal Ripken Jr. to be excited about, and before I was out of elementary school, Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened up. There were some other pretty good players to see back then - future Hall of Famers beyond just Ripken: Robbie Alomar and Mike Mussina, and great Orioles like Brady Anderson and Chris Hoiles.

Before that new car smell wore off, when Camden Yards was still selling out every night and the closest competition was three hours away in Philadelphia, there was The Streak breaking Lou Gehrig’s record and then the exciting 1996 and 1997 postseason teams. It was never even hard to find somewhere to park because they hadn’t yet built the Ravens stadium or the Hilton over a big part of the parking lots. Those were the days. I’m sorry if you missed them.

It got ugly for a while there, as I’m sure you’re well aware, and things weren’t quite so fun for a painfully long time. Maybe the real story that should be told is why you or I stayed Orioles fans through all of that. It was something that I asked myself as the Sam Perlozzo years gave way to the Dave Trembley years.

Sometimes, having been born into Orioles fandom felt a little bit more like a curse than a blessing of any kind. But your team is your team, through thick and thin. That doesn’t mean you always like them, exactly, but the love is eternal, and for me, loving the Orioles just came right along with loving Maryland and loving Baltimore.

My fate was surely sealed as far back as kindergarten, if not farther back than that, when we took a field trip to Fort McHenry and I first heard the story of the defense of Baltimore and the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner.

After I was an adult, even though the team was bad, it was more of a conscious choice than something automatic. This is who I am, a Marylander, a Baltimorean, a guy who says “O” sounds a little funny and may occasionally say “hour” as “aaahhh-er”, and also, of course, an Orioles fan. Even if they’re not very good.

Anyway, things haven’t been so bad lately, current state of the starting rotation, bullpen, and offense notwithstanding. The idea of the Orioles making the postseason three times in five years was unfathomable in the dark years of last decade.

This era has its share of players who have their places secured in Orioles lore, and they’re led by a manager, Buck Showalter, who is also already a legend in the franchise annals. Manny Machado could end up being one of baseball’s greats, and we’re seeing him as he grows towards his potential.

Let’s not forget, either, about the Orioles player who’s embraced Baltimore like no other: Adam Jones, who before all is said and done could be one of the top 10 Orioles ever, or very close to it. Nobody embodies this current era as much as him.

I’ll never forget - among other things - how Jones responded when presented with hype about the then-latest Yankees mega-priced free agent signing, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. A New York reporter, fishing for quotes about one of those obnoxious New York media stories, asked Jones how he felt about facing Tanaka for the first time, and Jones retorted, “Why don’t you ask Tanaka about me?”

Seriously, he’s the best, and so are the Orioles - even when they lose. Which is why I’m a fan and why I always will be.

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