A week from today, Oriole fans will be almost within a snowball’s throw of Camden Yards. Standing in the cold outside the Convention Center should spark warm thoughts of shedding the winter coat for an Orioles jersey, the wool hat for a baseball cap, and the gloves for those that catch baseballs. FanFest is a time to put back on the orange and black, appreciate the best of the old — Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Eddie Murray — and embrace the excitement of the new — general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde.
This past week, I had an email exchange with an Orioles fan whose baseball odyssey started in North Jersey rooting for the Yankees and Mets; he was on the wrong side of the 1969 World Series. A track scholarship brought him to the University of Maryland, where he fell in love with his wife-to-be, Denise, and discovered his new favorite team-to-be, the Orioles.
In anticipation of FanFest and the February 12th reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training, Brad Jaeger agreed to answer some questions and share his passion for the Orioles and baseball.
You’re an avid fan — is your passion as strong after last year’s 115-loss season?
Of course — I love the game. The strategy, being outside, watching kids grow up following the team, watching young children charting the game the way I used to when I was growing up. It’s a game of skill more than a game of entertainment or hurting your opponent. If I’m driving and see a high school game going on — I’ll stop and watch the game for a while. I love going to IronBirds games and used to go watch the Cal Ripken World Series games at Aberdeen. I’ve gone to watch the Delmarva Shorebirds, Hagerstown Suns and York Revolution play.
I’ve gone to spring training a number of times and love driving around Florida watching two or three games a day. This year I’ll skip it just because I have no clue what is going on with the team. Definitely a lack of information coming from management. It’s more than about winning. It’s about learning from your mistakes, being a good teammate and caring about the city where the fans are spending their hard-earned money to watch you grow as an athlete and a person.
What questions would you like to ask new manager Brandon Hyde?
How familiar are you with the Oriole Way? Why did you want to come here? What are your expectations? What do you know about Baltimore? Can I have a job working to get Orioles involved in the community?
What questions would you like to ask new general manager Mike Elias?
No real questions but just remind him that the Orioles are a hometown team, the emotional ties that people have to the team and what the Oriole Way means. Please don’t stray too far. And please … bring back Adam Jones!!!
Are you encouraged with the approach the Orioles are taking to rebuild — investing in analytics, scouting and the international market?
Only scouting. Analytics takes the fun out of the game. The 8000 different formulas they have for every aspect of the game is overkill and plays to the fantasy baseball players who don’t go to the games. I’m not a fan of the shift on every play which comes from analytics.
Do you think the Orioles are headed in the right direction?
I’m a believer in the Oriole Way. I think that is going to end this year. Times change, and I’ll have to get used to that. What attracted me to the Orioles was that it was a family — both within the team and with their fans. You always saw Al Bumbry walking around Timonium, and I loved Adam Jones and his commitment to the city. What attracts people to the team is their feeling that they know the players.
Do you plan to attend any games this season?
I love watching the games, whether live, on TV, MLB.com or [listening on] the radio. Over the past 10 years, I don’t think I’ve missed a single game using all types of different media. I’ve had a 13-game plan for a half-dozen years, but this year I’ll probably forgo it and attend more IronBirds or Bowie Baysox games.
How long have you been an Orioles fan and what made you become one?
I first became an Orioles fan when I went to the University of Maryland at 17 years old. It also helped that my future wife was a die-hard fan already — so I didn’t have a choice. Before that, being from North Jersey, I was an insane Yankees and more insane Mets fan. I can still recite the names of every player on the 1969 Mets and to this day, Mickey Mantle is still my favorite player. I still follow them (moreso the Mets) religiously on MLB.com and cable. In the back of my closet I still have the charts that I made following the teams as a teenager. Most nights I would fall asleep with my AM transistor radio playing the Mets game under my pillow.
Brad Jaeger, 65, grew up in Saddle Brook, N.J. He coached high school track, college swimming and was a private coach for a long time. He worked in genetic engineering before developing one of the largest triathlon event managing businesses on the East Coast, Triathlantic Association. After that, he started Running Maryland, which covered high school track in Maryland. He now builds custom furniture with Gonzo Hollow Woodworks.
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.