When I met with Andy MacPhail about the Orioles job, I knew Baltimore was a great baseball city. I knew what the tenor was like, I knew what the atmosphere was like.
When I was at ESPN, I was at peace with my life. It was a great time. My son was a senior in high school and I was a groundskeeper for his team when he played center field, and I enjoyed it.
I don’t call and solicit. I don’t network. It’s very disrespectful when people currently have a job. I don’t want X to get fired. I want guys to keep their job. I want everybody to be successful.
Being around Andy for about a half-hour, I knew that we shared a real connection about doing things right and trying to put something together that stands the test of time. The test of time is five or six years in today’s game. It could have been more, but that’s the subject for another day.
I had an open line of communication with Mr. Angelos and his family, and we shared a love of the Orioles. It helped get things done.
There’s not a meanness in the fans. One thing they want is for the Orioles to be good. I remember coming in there with the Yankees and with the Rangers, and there was always a really good atmosphere with the fans. They wanted the home team to win. There was a home-field atmosphere. You talk to other players coming in to play there, and baseball was the focus.
There weren’t a lot of the other bells and whistles. It was pure baseball. The fans would get on the other team, but there wasn’t that real edge to it. The ballpark fit the city and the city fit the ballpark.
Baltimore’s got a great blue-collar feel to it. I knew that it kind of fit what I was looking for, a place that you could sink your teeth into and feel like you could make an impact and was in need of what you had the potential to bring.
One of the missing things there was the consistency of message and an identity that I wanted and they wanted, and following through on it. People in Baltimore are drawn to sincerity, and they can smell phoniness.
A lot of people fight it, but you’ve got a real conduit to the fan. You have to do MASN before and after every game, all season. You’ve got to embrace it. It is part of your job, but it’s got to be a labor of love.
You know you’re talking about something that’s very important to people and you’ve got to take very seriously. I think the fans felt like I and we were as serious about the Orioles as they were. It’s not just someplace you’re passing through.
That’s why it’s so important to make that commitment to Baltimore and to the city and be up to date with news about what’s going on in Baltimore.
I always enjoyed going around the country talking about the virtues of Baltimore, some of the great things that we have there. I think a lot of people that grew up in Baltimore respected that and knew that I was trying to do what’s best for Baltimore.
Whether it’s the Ravens, whether it’s the University of Maryland, whether it’s Navy, whether it’s talking about what a great hospital Johns Hopkins is, there’s a lot of great things to offer there, Fells Point, Little Italy. I can take you to a bad part of every city, and I can take you to a great part of every city. Baltimore’s no different.
We loved where we lived. We had a pasture. I miss just having a place to come home to. We made a commitment there. We moved there, we committed there, lived there nine months a year. It was a commitment to everything.
We miss our neighbors, the things that most people do. Each time we were in the playoffs, our neighbors left notes on our gate wishing us luck. They were supportive yet respectful of our privacy, and we’re grateful for that.
I enjoyed the drive in. I had about two or three different routes. You miss the fans. I miss the rides home after a real good day game win at home. That was always fun.
I’ll miss Angela’s commitment to everything that goes with a manager’s wife. We were a true team.
I’m going to miss my son, Nathan, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca. Nathan is staying with the Orioles as a trusted scout, and I’m very happy about that.
Two or three weeks a year, Angela and I would drive to the sunflower fields not far from where we lived. It was so beautiful, it took our breath away.
I miss a lot of people with the Orioles, people I interacted with every day, a parking attendant, the clubhouse guys, support people, ushers you get to know through the years, relationships that you develop.
There’s nothing like a fall day when the leaves are turning and it’s starting to get a little cooler. I’ll never go through that and not think about Opening Day and the playoffs in October.
Those are things you’re going to miss. You’re going to miss a good weather day game when we played well, we played crisp, get into the car and drive at about 5 mph down Pratt Street looking at all the people in black and orange and realizing that you may have been a part of making a good memory for somebody and their family.
After Sunday day games, we’d stop and get snowballs behind the gas station on the drive home, and I’m going to miss that.
I think I’ll miss how much the fans embrace players from the past. They know who Chris Hoiles is. They know who Mike Bordick is, and what they did.
I understand the shelf life of a manager. Eight-and-a-half years in one place, well, that doesn’t happen anymore in sports, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Fans in Baltimore have a long memory. They realize with good times, sometimes come challenging times. It’s not a what have you done for me lately world there all the time. I think they just want to know there’s better days ahead. It’s kind of like life.
Editor’s Note: When Orioles writer Rich Dubroff contacted Buck Showalter about reflecting on his time in Baltimore, the first thing the former Orioles manager said was, “What’s going on with Harbaugh?” The Ravens had just lost their third in a row, and Harbaugh calmly answered questions about whether he was concerned about his job. Showalter and Harbaugh developed a friendship during their time together in Baltimore, sharing the bond that comes with the expectation of producing a winner with the two teams fans care about most. Showalter became one of those fans who wants to see the Ravens do well, but a bigger concern is Harbaugh’s status. It’s personal, in a way that only he understands.
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.