Covering Orioles games in 2020 wasn't a joy or a chore - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Covering Orioles games in 2020 wasn’t a joy or a chore

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

My most unusual season of covering baseball is over. For the final six Oriole games, I’ll join you in watching them on television.

I saw 45 games, more than I anticipated because three games scheduled to be played in Miami and Tampa Bay were relocated to Baltimore after postponements. Although the season wasn’t entirely satisfying, it wasn’t awful.

The Orioles were energized by the additions of Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle. It was enjoyable to see Ellicott City’s Bruce Zimmermann make his first start on Thursday, but I kept looking down to the stands, and tried to picture how it would have looked with his family and friends in attendance.

I never got used to the pumped-in crowd noise, which often didn’t come at the right time. I did enjoy hearing chatter. Every game, I’d hear a fielder yell, “got it, got it, got it” to call for a fly ball.

In Washington, after a late-inning Anthony Santander home run, I could make out Miguel Castro cheering in the Orioles’ bullpen. The press box is located near the top of Nationals Park, and it was amazing to hear Castro from so far away.

I’d never actually heard an umpire eject anyone until this year. Will Little threw out Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long. “You’re outta here,” he yelled.

After a rain delay in Philadelphia, crew chief Bill Welke barked at the grounds crew: “5:40.” That’s the time he wanted the game to start. It started at 5:44.

It was a year of new rules and procedures, most of which I liked. It seems that the seven-inning doubleheaders, which have long been a minor league staple, are a one-off.

I can’t imagine the Yankees, Cubs or Red Sox giving up a packed house, so I think the day/night doubleheaders return in 2021.

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While other sports expanded their game-day rosters, baseball stayed at 25 for decades. This year, the roster limit was supposed to  be set at 26, but when the short season began, there were 30 players, later reduced to 28.

I hope that number stays with perhaps two additions in September. Having extra bullpen arms and position players makes for a better game.

I hadn’t seen the automatic runner on second to begin an extra inning, but I quickly became a fan. Instead of watching players try to end an extra-inning game with a single swing, it was fun to see bunting and the five-man infield employed to win a game

In the first Orioles extra-inning game, there was the first leadoff double play in baseball history. Austin Hays had a leadoff two-run inside-the-park home run in Philadelphia, and there was a wacky one when pitchers Jonathan Holder for the Yankees and Travis Lakins for the Orioles began the inning as automatic runners.

Both the Yankees and Orioles had exhausted their position players, and lost the designated hitter. Holder and Lakins each scored a run. Holder was the winner, Lakins the loser. To make it even stranger, it was a seven-inning doubleheader, and the pitchers ran in the second extra inning, which was actually the ninth.

I’d love to see a more compact travel schedule. Regular games each year with the Mets and Phillies would be welcome to go along with the annual contests with the Nationals.

The coverage of the games wasn’t as enjoyable as in the past. Most games, there were just four of us in the press box: David Ginsburg of the Associated Press, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun. Others came occasionally, and a number of former regulars weren’t there because of health reasons.

Interviews were conducted on Zoom, which made it easy to work from home before a game if I chose, and I often did, but the personal contact with players, coaches and managers was missing.

Other than chance meetings at grocery stores or gas stations or when exiting the park, there was no personal contact with any Oriole.

I’ve never met Jorge López nor Carson Fulmer and, because of an abbreviated spring training, had limited encounters with Lakins, Bryan Holaday, José Iglesias and Cole Sulser. I got to know the rookies in their minor league careers or during spring training.

Zoom interviews were plentiful and welcome, providing lots of material, but missed was the opportunity to do stories of your own in the clubhouse or surveys requiring multiple player responses.

The most hilarious moment on Zoom came after Kremer’s debut when an Israeli journalist filibustered for nearly two minutes before he actually asked a question. I had my head in my hands, doubled over in laughter.

I missed the fans and my nightly walk around the ballpark after dinner and the search for Jersey of the Night. For those who’ve asked, that will return when fans do.

Despite the heavy skepticism, Major League Baseball has managed to pull off a regular season that was less bumpy as it went along. After the initial Marlins and Cardinals Covid-19 outbreaks, everyone seemed to pull together and follow the procedures, as unpleasant as they were.

I got used to wearing a mask for hours at a time and, as it’s gotten cooler, I’ve forgotten it’s on.

I missed the socializing with other writers and people around baseball in media dining rooms and tried to bring a variety of meals to the press box. For doubleheaders, Chinese food was ideal. I could have some dishes for lunch before Game 1, and others for Game 2.

I’ve already made reservations for spring training in Sarasota next February, hoping that we’ll have a healthy country and normal baseball environment by then.

I can always hope.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

36 Comments

36 Comments

  1. Earl Weevir

    September 21, 2020 at 7:52 am

    I felt entertained, and it was nice to have this MLB distraction. It has been like a practice and training camp, but the games count ? Best thing about this season was the 3 run homers! Ha ha.

  2. Phil770

    September 21, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Rich, as always, great insights about the O’s, baseball and this season. Your coverage made it far more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Stay safe. Thanks for all that you do, at least for this old fan.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 9:07 am

      Thank you, Phil.

  3. Olney Ogre

    September 21, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Rich: Thank you for the great coverage. I too am ready for spring training. Jay

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 9:51 am

      We still have another week plus the playoffs, Jay. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. 33d St

    September 21, 2020 at 9:49 am

    We definitely got a lot more out of this season than I thought we would when they first canceled it. Both in terms of actual games getting played, and in terms of the team improving. So that was a nice bonus in itself.

    Thanks for all the work you do covering the owes and keeping this site running. This is my favorite place to go for Orioles info.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 9:52 am

      Those thoughts are greatly appreciated.

  5. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 21, 2020 at 11:05 am

    You’re the man Rich. Who needs Connelly? (I kid because I love Dan)

    I can’t believe they got in all 60! Besides the strangeness of this Covid season … from a personal perspective … I found that watching the games from the Central time zone to be fantastic! Working and living in Va., I rarely made it to the end of the game. While acknowledging that the O’s never traveled west, I can honestly say that I made it through the last inning of every game I started watching this year, which was the great majority of them.

    The down side of being an O’s fan living in the central time zone, is that I rarely get up early enough to be the 1st commenter on this greatest of baseball web-sites anymore. I miss that distinction.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Thank you, Ken.

  6. millboy

    September 21, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Thanks Rich, your articles never disappoint…weird season to say the least

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 11:43 am

      Many thanks, millboy.

  7. Orial

    September 21, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent article Rich–an insider’s gift to us. Yes this season has been a lot to observe and swalliw for us as fans and I’m sure especially for you as an eye witness to this. Love the part about Castro’s cheering(kinda miss him but not his inconsistent outings). Like the extra inning rule,hope the DH stays(even heard the Cardinals feel that way–they’d still have Luke Voight),BUT the 7 inning games have to go. Hopefully next year will be back to normal AND hopefully the fans will feel the same way and we’ll get bigger than 7,000 weeknight crowds. Look forward to more enlightening info Rich.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 2:51 pm

      Thank you, Orial.

  8. TxBirdFan

    September 21, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    Rich – thanks for keeping us current as well as entertained with excellent articles! We still have some games left but baseball is starting to fade into the background with football on tap. Maybe I can score some World Series tickets here in Dallas!

    And Boog – welcome to the Central Time Zone where all East Coast games can be watched in their entirety. The only down side is the traffic getting to see a game at OPACY.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      Thank you, Tx.

  9. 66OsFan

    September 21, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Rich, thanks for the insights on this most unusual MLB season from the press box. You certainly answered some questions about what it’s been like for those ‘behind the scenes” as it were. Always great to read your takes on the team and hwere it’s heading. I’ve been a believer in the rebuild from the beginning, not a boo Bird, or fair weather fan, I’ll stick with the team through thick and thin, and keep reading your takes on the progress. Here’s to seeing you around the concourse next season! Cheers!

  10. Bancells Moustache

    September 21, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for more great coverage Rich, even if it was weird. Outside of doubleheader and extra inning rules, and the occasional foul ball into empty seats, I really haven’t felt all that different about this season. But I also don’t make my living inside the ballpark being neither a journalist nor able to hit a big league slider. It’s been a surprisingly enjoyable year, and the young bucks coming up offer a glimmer of hope for next year. Egad, remember how awful everyone felt on opening day when they were curb stomped by the Red Sox? It’s seemed like most of the games were close and winnable and the recipe was right, the ingredients just weren’t strong enough. Now let’s see them finish strong, make a run at Toronto for 3rd and head into the winter feeling good.

    • Dantor

      September 21, 2020 at 4:46 pm

      Rich, tho I don’t post that often, I do enjoy reading your articles and your incite. With the short season at least we got baseball. Looking forward to next year and a full season. Have been aware of the man on 2nd for extra innings (which I like) and 7 inning double hitters, as am a fan of the Norfolk Tides. Have watch the young players come up and enjoy seeing them get called up. Can’t wait until next year.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 5:01 pm

      Thank you, Steve!

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 5:02 pm

      Thank you, Dan!

  11. NormOs

    September 21, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Rich, you did a great job reporting on a strange season (Though not for the O’s). I’m hoping for a change in the way Balls and Strikes are called, last night’s game was a perfect example of poor B and S umpiring, and putting a man at 2nd in extra innings stinks.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 5:03 pm

      Norm, thank you, and I think the rebuild is underway.

      • NormOs

        September 21, 2020 at 8:00 pm

        I agree, starting pitchers and outfielders are ready for 2021. Infielders are another story IMHO.

  12. WorldlyView

    September 21, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    I’d like to add to the expressions of gratitude for and appreciation of your reporting on this most unusual season. Your enthusiasm and wealth of knowledge of your subject were exceeded only by the quality of your writing. Since I cannot sit through all, or even most, of a televised baseball game and don’t subscribe to the Sun, you have become my main link to the O’s. Also, a tip of the hat to the other commentators who provided many thought-provoking and interesting comments.
    A question: you referred to the many new rules and procedures implemented this season. By what authority were they implemented–The unlimited power of the Commissioner to act for the good of the game? If so, then presumably he could make permanent some of these changes, e.g. expanded rosters.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      Professor Cohen, they were jointly agreed upon by MLB and the Players Association.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 21, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      And thank you for your kind words.

  13. BirdsCaps

    September 21, 2020 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for the season recap from a journalist perspective and for your articles this season. The human aspect of just about everything has been non existent this yr , so hopefully us fans and your fellow journalists can all gather at the yard in ‘21! Am I the only one that has (likely to be crushed) hopes that the birds will put out another semi competitive season next yr?

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 22, 2020 at 7:56 am

      Thank you, Stephen.

  14. dlgruber1

    September 22, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Rich, I was new to this site this season and thoroughly enjoyed the coverage you provided, as well as being pleasantly surprised at how competitive the O’s were for the most part. My question is do you carry on thru the winter with periodic articles on the going’s on of the team? And one last question. Do you have any knowledge of whether or not they plan on bringing back Fanfest? Great job this season.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 22, 2020 at 8:01 am

      Thank you, Dave.

      I write Monday-Friday through the offseason and weekends if there’s news.

      I always found FanFest helpful for material, and convenient because I live 10 minutes away, but doubt that even if health permitted that it would return.

      I think they liked how the caravans were received, but as long as the pandemic continues, I think their events will be virtual.

  15. mmcmillan1123

    September 22, 2020 at 10:10 am

    In a world gone mad you and baseball have helped keep me sane. I enjoy your articles and your take on the game. Keep up the good work and hopefully we can all get back to the ballpark next year. I think the O’s are on the rise again.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 22, 2020 at 10:25 am

      I’m glad baseball and I helped keep you sane, McMillan. Baseball and our readers helped keep me sane.

  16. Raymo

    September 22, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    If it’s not too late, I’d like to also express my gratitude do you Rich for the timely information, the quality of the writing, and the continued existence of this platform. This has been a nice place to hear from and get familiar with other O’s fans. And except for some recent pissing matches, the dialogue is usually considerate and people are respectful of each other’s comments. Gotta love BaltimoreBaseball.com.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 23, 2020 at 8:17 am

      Thank you, Ray. If you notice those miscreants you’re referring to aren’t commenting here.

  17. dakhd1

    September 23, 2020 at 7:40 am

    Interesting insights. Thanks.

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