We were assembling joggers for the seven participants from Athletes Serving Athletes to compete in the marathon relay of the Baltimore Running Festival when I realized we were in the shadows of The Warehouse at Camden Yards. Except we weren’t really in the shadows, we were in the dark before sunrise, when the quiet of the morning offers little hint of the day ahead.
Soon, 22,000 runners would crowd the streets of Baltimore while thousands more would cheer or volunteer. The celebration would begin outside Camden Yards with the kind of excitement that has often been found inside it. Except on this morning, there was nothing coming from inside the park or The Warehouse, where all was quiet.
It has been that way since the end of the regular season for the Orioles, the dismissals of Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette and the search for a new leadership team.
All has been quiet. When an announcement comes, it will bring noise and excitement.
Like a recent day on the NCR Trail.
The quiet of my training run for ASA was interrupted by the noise of a helicopter hovering just above the trail between the parking lot at Paper Mill Road and the 1-mile marker.
Looking down the trail as I was finishing my run, I could see a Baltimore County Police car. As I approached the car, I noticed the officer was on foot, scanning the woods that run alongside the trail; he was searching for someone.
I soon turned around to see if I could help. The officer had moved up the trail, closer to the 1-mile marker, and the helicopter had moved with him.
Just then, I heard voices. Two women, with three dogs, had made their way to the base of a steep hill next to the trail, moving carefully through fallen limbs and thick growth that included plenty of stickers.
I yelled to ask if they were the ones the police were searching for, and they said yes. As I went to notify the officer, a cyclist stopped and climbed down the hill to help them escape the thicket and continue their trek to reach the trail.
A walker joined us as the officer removed a rope from his trunk so that we could help pull the women up the hill.
They had some cuts, and looked weary, but were in good spirits after having been lost in the woods for two hours. They explained they hadn’t noticed they had wandered off the path until the woods had obscured their view of it. After struggling with which direction to take, they called 9-1-1 to help in their search for a way out.
Not long after that experience, I heard a message that we’re always searching for something — acceptance, answers, understanding, peace, healing, perhaps a new manager and GM, or just a way back on the path when we’ve lost our way.
The scene on the trail symbolized that search. It also illustrated the coming together of strangers to lend a hand; I noted that a cyclist, a walker and a runner — the three groups that share the trail, sometimes begrudgingly — assisted the officer.
I didn’t get the officer’s name, but he could not have been more kind, understanding or helpful. He gave the women water and Gatorade and a ride back to where they had parked. The search had ended, and hope had been realized. It was one less thing to search for.
Jack Gibbons spent 46 years in sports journalism, including a chunk of that time as sports editor of The Baltimore Sun. Now retired from full-time work, Jack serves as the lead editor and writer for BaltimoreBaseball.com’s “Calling the Pen,” a periodic feature that highlights baseball essays written by the community. If you would like to contribute to ‘Calling the Pen,” send a 750-1,200-word, original piece via email to [email protected] for consideration.