The day after the new year started, my wife, Barb, said the gym at which she works, Anytime Fitness in Jacksonville, was busier than usual. She hadn’t thought about New Year’s resolutions.
I’ve never paid attention to them, either. Well, maybe a little bit. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, eating better, being kinder — or any area you think needs improvement. Some in our family choose words that represent their goals for the new year and turn those words into a painting they put in a place that they’ll see every day. We have some creative artists; I’m not one of them.
But I have been thinking about words that might apply to my life and the local baseball team that lost 115 games last season.
Patience. I’m still working on it, and I’m thinking the 2019 Orioles will help me improve. It was painful to watch last season’s collapse. In the end, pretty much everything was lost — Machado, Schoop, Britton, Gausman, Brach, O’Day, Showalter, Duquette, respect, enjoyment, a reason to watch. The Angelos brothers, Lou and John, did the only thing they could do, they tore down the old construction and brought in a new project team. I’m going to try to be patient during the rebuild.
Hope. I need hope in my life because I’ve lost a lot through the years. There has been much more pain than I ever imagined. One day at a time is not a cliche but a way of life, a way of moving forward. The Oriole losses aren’t the equivalent, but it was important for ownership to give fans hope. They brought in Mike Elias, a 35-year-old Yale graduate whose scouting work with the Cardinals earned him a position with the Astros, who give him credit for their resurgence. His hires of analytics director Sig Mejdal, international scouting director Koby Perez and manager Brandon Hyde, who sat next to Joe Maddon last year, are reasons for optimism.
Self-control. I wrestle with this one. I remember attending a class once when the instructor asked everyone to pick up their pen or pencil and write down all the people you control. Immediately, he said stop because we don’t control anyone else and often lack control of ourselves. We’ll kick ourselves afterward, vowing to do better. And then we’ll kick ourselves again. One area is comparing ourselves to others. That is going to be a tough one for the Orioles for a while. They’re in the best division in baseball, and the other teams aren’t coming back to them. They’re going to need to make smart choices in the drafts, the international market, free agency … they’re going to need to build that talent pipeline that Elias talked about before they can compete with the best. They need to focus on getting better.
Joy. This word is often misinterpreted and simplified. It is exchanged with happiness, which often depends on our circumstances. Joy is deeper than that. It’s challenged by circumstances, but it’s not in a constant state of flux. It’s part of your core. There can, and should be, joy in what the Orioles are doing. In many ways, they’re starting over, building something new from the ground up, installing a new philosophy, a new way of doing things. It’s exciting and maybe a bit frightening for those in leadership. But there should be joy in this enterprise, there should be a shared belief that they will succeed.
Present. This one has two meanings and both might apply eventually, but I’m talking about being in the moment. The new year is a good time to take stock of how many moments we miss because we’re not present. We’re distracted by the commotion around us, and all the information in our hand. But much of it is noise, ugly noise that affects our mood and makes us lose sight of the beauty in front of us. The new year reminds us how quickly time moves from one moment to another, and that we shouldn’t regret missing so many because we weren’t present. For the Orioles, it’s living in the present and paying attention to the details. It’s listening to the fans, it’s knowing the history but not living in the past, it’s building for the future but not missing the daily gifts, the presents.
There might be other words that you would choose. We all come into 2019 from a different perspective and perhaps with the expectation that the Orioles are building something to last.
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.