A life les­son from the Ori­oles: the im­por­tance of play­ing the long game

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Amy Lun­day

It has been 21 years since I moved to sub­ur­ban Bal­ti­more from my home­town in the Fin­ger Lakes. I mi­grated south to live with, and later marry, my col­lege sweet­heart. A lot has changed since the sum­mer of 1998, most sig­nif­i­cantly the ar­rival of our two chil­dren, Lucy and Isaac, who are now11 and 9.

Be­fore the kids came along, we did a lot of the usual 20-some­thing, Charm City cou­ple things, in­clud­ing go­ing to Cam­den Yards on ran­dom week­nights af­ter work just be­cause we could. We watched Al­bert Belle have some re­ally good — and then not so good — games. I de­vel­oped a crush on B.J. Surhoff and cried right along with him when he got traded to the Braves. We ate ball­park hot dogs and gi­ant cin­na­mon­sugar cov­ered pret­zels and did the wave along­side thou­sands of fellow fans.

I for­get ex­actly when we stopped reg­u­larly do­ing those things. I’m sure the ar­rival of a baby and then another baby had some­thing to do with it. But this sum­mer, the kids were sud­denly old enough to de­velop their own in­ter­est in the Ori­oles. We found our­selves watch­ing games on TV ev­ery night and buy­ing two Ju­nior Ori­oles Dugout Club ticket sub­scrip­tions to go to sev­eral poorly at­tended Sun­day af­ter­noon games as a fam­ily.

It has been fun to see Lucy and Isaac en­gage with the game, the team and the trap­pings of base­ball. They both love to im­part bi­o­graph­i­cal tidbits about the play­ers, like how Trey Mancini shares my birth­day, but I had it first. Lucy thinks bat­ters should con­sider bunting more of­ten, and Isaac might have a fu­ture as a play-by-play color com­men­ta­tor. My hus­band and I fol­low lo­cal sports re­porters on Twitter and share their fac­toids with each other dur­ing the games. We try to like as many of their tweets as we can be­cause, let’s face it, cov­er­ing the O’s th­ese days might just feel like a thank­less task. And since B.J. Surhoff is no longer on the team, I’ve had to start ad­mir­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion of Ori­oles. When I point out Richie Martin’s lovely eyes and dim­ples or Dwight Smith Jr.’s killer smile, my kids roll their eyes and gag, but I can take it.

Watch­ing the games as a fam­ily has been a sum­mer­time high­light that I didn’t see com­ing. That we’ve rekin­dled our in­ter­est in the Ori­oles dur­ing a sta­tis­ti­cal dud of sea­son hasn’t put a damper on our en­thu­si­asm. In fact, it has been an ex­cel­lent way to teach our kids about the im­por­tance of play­ing the long game, both as a sports fan and in life in gen­eral.

I love that our kids are learn­ing about ERAs, RBIs and in­side-the-park home runs while also learn­ing how to bol­ster their dis­ap­point­ments dur­ing the los­ing games by look­ing for the bright spots. Sure, we’ve seen a lot of wob­bly field­ing and whiffs at bat since April. But we’ve also mar­veled at some great home run-steal­ing catches in the out­field and watched our bat­ters hit home runs of their own. And when the hitting wasn’t so great, we ap­pre­ci­ated how they tried to jack up op­pos­ing teams’ pitch counts by tak­ing their time at the plate. We were at Cam­den Yards when Rio Ruiz hit a spec­tac­u­lar walk-off home run against the Astros even though the odds were stacked against the O’s. Co­in­ci­den­tally, we were treated to another walk-off win when we went to see the Iron­birds’ last home game of the sea­son.

The point I’m hop­ing my kids take away from their first full sea­son as Ori­oles fans is that on and off the field, you’ll face your share of slumps, but there will be flashes of bril­liance along the way. There are 54 outs in a game and there are great mo­ments to be had, even dur­ing a los­ing game, and this fam­ily of Ori­oles fans is choosing to look for them.

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