In the scheme of things, like oh, I don’t know, a global pandemic, tattered economy, eerily empty streets, that sense of “WTF” that’s just hanging in the air like a bad smell, should we even bother to lament the loss of Orioles baseball in Baltimore this spring?
In normal times, even normal hard times, you could count on baseball as a daily distraction this time of year.
But not this year. Oh no. No Opening Day. No daily box scores. No games on TV. No Orioles to fret over, complain about, or see in person at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Tom Hanks’ character in League of Their Own famously said, “There’s no crying in baseball!” But dare I ask, is there crying when there’s no baseball?
What to do? Like with most things related to the coronavirus crisis, there’s not much we can do but stay home. But since we’re stuck at home, let’s do what baseball fans do best: complain! Without further ado, here’s a list of baseball and Orioles aspects of life I’m missing most right now:
Stolen Memories from Opening Day 2020
The season was set to begin on Thursday, March 25, 2020, with a 3:05 p.m. first pitch against the Yankees. The Yankees! That day was crisp and clear. Sun in the sky and a high of about 60. Every year, I close my office on Opening Day and bring the team down to celebrate the start of the season and the start of spring. Baltimore’s downtown streets and bars would have been packed, full of life, and, dare I suggest, optimism? I know the Orioles weren’t predicted to be very good, but there would have been a sense of hope in the air—along with a whole lot of alcoholic beverages.
The Day-in, Day-out Routine of Following The Orioles
True story: A few years ago, I took a client to an Orioles game. This client, let’s call him, Jason, because that’s his name, was not a big baseball fan. But he was a sports fan, and as we settled into our seats, he asked me, “Greg, do you watch a lot of the Orioles games?” And I said “Jason, I watch all of the Orioles games.”
I’m not completely insane or a masochist. I don’t watch every pitch of every game. I definitely did not follow every game the last two seasons when the Orioles were brutally bad. But I do keep tabs on most games, whether on TV or on the MLB app or the radio. There’s a comfort in having the game on TV as background noise. You don’t have to watch every pitch, but it’s just there, waiting for you.
Going to the Games
Let’s be honest. Baltimore has become much more of a Ravens town throughout the last 20 years. The Orioles own the nostalgia and the history, the Ravens own the passion.
That said, baseball is different in that there’s a game nearly every night. During an Orioles homestand, the downtown area begins to simmer with energy in the late afternoon as the outdoor vendors set up, and the fans start to walk along Conway, Pratt, and Eutaw Streets. Fans from visiting clubs emerge from nearby hotels in their jerseys. The calls of “Five-dollar-hats!—get your five-dollar-hats here!” ring through the air. But not this year. There’s no “cheaper-on-the-outside” hot dogs and icy cold beverages. It’s just quiet.
Obviously, the bars and restaurants around the stadium are hurting—like bars and restaurants everywhere—as are the Orioles’ seasonal employees such as vendors, ushers, and security personnel. As is true for everyone who works in the hospitality industry, these are challenging times. For all of us.
A subset of missing going to the game is missing the ritual of stadium food. Whether your pleasure is a juicy Boog’s BBQ, funnel cake, Boardwalk fries, a grilled sausage with the works, a crabby mac and cheese dog, tacos, nachos, crab dip-smothered waffle fries, chicken tenders, icy cold draft brews, or flagging down Clancy or Howard the vendor for a canned beer, or cooling off with soft serve in a helmet cup, or… (I could do this for a while)—if you’re anything like me, you miss stadium food.
And it’s not just the food. It’s the planning and talking about what snacks you’re going to get. In my family, if I wasn’t able to tell the 15-year-old (not a huge baseball fan) that he’s getting some tenders and fries and soft serve at the stadium, I’d have a much harder time getting him out of the house.
All of these experiences—watching on TV, going to the game, talking about the Orioles, texting about them, following them online—create bonds and opportunities for connection with friends and family. Taking my wife and two boys to the game is a good reason to do something together.
Our 12-year-old is a big baseball fan, and the ebb and flow of the season gives us daily opportunities to connect. Last season, for example, we both became big Hanser Alberto fans, as the young infielder found a home with the Orioles and improbably made a run for the batting title. Whenever he came up to hit, one of us would say, “It’s your boy, Hanser Alberto!”
I’ll end with this. Baseball is about family for me. My dad is a huge fan, as was his dad, who left us way back in the mid ’90s. My grandfather took his boys, my father and his brother, to the parade downtown in 1954 to celebrate the Orioles’ arrival from St. Louis. For the last 65 years, Orioles baseball has been a staple of spring in this city. And it will be again, we just have to wait it out, kind of like a very long rain delay.