Calling the Pen: One Oriole fan's perspective as FanFest approaches - BaltimoreBaseball.com

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Calling the Pen: One Oriole fan’s perspective as FanFest approaches

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. ptmt86

    January 19, 2019 at 10:49 am

    It seemed to be fairly obvious the end of last year big changes were coming. Lou and John proved that once they hired GM Elias. That in itself said volumes to me. I truly believe the fans under 45 will see a completely different team in a couple of years. I’ve followed the O’s since 1960. Excitement is around the corner.

    • Jack Gibbons

      January 19, 2019 at 11:32 am

      ptmt86, Lou and John Angelos have been traditional in their goal to invest in scouting (and the international market); contemporary in their desire for improved analytics; and original in hiring 35-year-old Mike Elias as general manager. I think you’re right about seeing a completely different team, and the excitement it generates.

  2. Frankly Robinson

    January 20, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Once hired, Elias seems to be building this team from the ground up. It will be fun to watch. I’m excited. I believe his approach it right, and his plate is full.

    Defense, pitching and 3 run homers are deeper than the famous Earl quote. After all to hit a 3 run homer, you need 2 base runners.

    So I would ask Hyde, who’s pitching game 1?

    Mr. Elias…Who is our #1 pick?

    I love the approach as we must keep up with the league, or come up with a better plan.

    Love the approach. It’s a deeper inside the game.

    Yes I will attend whenever possible. 🙂

    It was the late 1960’s. I think the TV station was WYOK out of York Pa.

    I watched the Orioles every chance I got with glove in hand. I drove my momma nuts bouncing a ball of the wall and replaying the game in my head. I still feel that passion in a less mobile body. 😉

    • Jack Gibbons

      January 21, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Frankly, I appreciate your answers and that you took the time to share them. I was wondering how others would answer those questions. I can relate to your final answer, too, although I often had a wooden bat in hand and imitated the Orioles’ batting stances — that is, if no one was in harm’s way in the living room. I had to confine the rubber ball to the cinderblock basement or the steps outside because it would make marks on the wall and ceiling.

  3. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    January 20, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    This was an interesting set of questions for Brad and his comments. I have said this before that the Orioles are not a MLB team now but a 4A team. The competition in baseballs toughest division will be a challenge in several respects. This teams anemic offense will be challenged to win as many games as last year an unlikely feat. Also, their poor inconsistent pitching will have them behind in the early innings most games. Another challenge is generating fan interest to attend games. Right now they have few pieces to build and market the team around . The good thing is they have a lot of excellent prospects that are several years away. This will be a painful process for the next several years. However, if they build a consistent winner and talented farm system it will be worth it.

    • Jack Gibbons

      January 21, 2019 at 10:08 am

      Grand Strand Bird Fan, I appreciated Brad’s willingness to answer the questions, and I agree with your assessment — that “this will be a painful process” that will require patience on the part of everyone involved. If the Oriole rebuild in the right way, the payoff could be long-term success. One thing was certain last year: They needed to take a different approach to building a winning team, and they appear to have taken the right initial steps.

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