On a recent drive, my husband turned on the baseball game, and it sent me back in time: I am 6 years old and drifting off to sleep to the sound of an Orioles game. I am riding home from a cousin’s birthday party in our Volvo station wagon. In my hand, I hold my goody bag, which includes a candy necklace and a slap bracelet. I am nestled between siblings in the middle seat and as we ride over a bump, my head bounces on my sister’s bony shoulder.
I enjoy the rolling rhythm of announcer Jon Miller’s voice and the way it builds and peaks and steadies following the energy of the Orioles game.
In those younger years, the fact that the game was just soothing background noise sat fine with me. As I got a little older and more self-conscious, I started to think I wasn’t a real fan. My dad knew baseball inside and out, covered the Orioles, and generously shared his knowledge and stories with me. The problem was that little more than a few players’ names stayed straight in my mind. Meanwhile, my mom was a true fan who never ever gave up on the Orioles. And my grandma listened to every single Orioles game on the radio. Even my cousin just a year older than me could talk baseball confidently.
I tried to follow the Orioles – I really did. On a similar car ride at age 10, when the baseball game was playing on our way home from my cousin’s birthday party, I focused intently, wanting to understand it all. Bottom of the fourth. Bases loaded. Eric Davis is at the plate. Strike one. Ball one. Ball two … And then my mind wandered to the way I got my prize by following an orange string earlier that day.
Every year, my uncle would set up The String Game for his eldest daughter’s birthday. He would select one colored string for each child attending and weave it through the yard, over the playset and other obstacles leading to the child’s prize on the other end. The strings were intertwined and complicated to follow, and it created a fantastic maze. Lost replaying this memory, I forgot I was trying to stay tuned in to the game. I didn’t know if Davis ever brought in those runs. In moments like this, I resigned to being not much of a baseball fan.
When I was kid, going to an Orioles game was a blast. Going to an Orioles game meant going downtown on a school night. It led to finding your forest green seat and asking Mom to reveal her stash of peanuts.
I waited for the Oriole Bird to come shake his tailfeathers and tease the fans in our section. I was poised and ready to jump up when the wave came through. I was on the edge of my seat when the ball soared high into the outfield and players scrambled to get under it. I remember the way the crowd erupted when a home run was hit by the Orioles (and I loved how the roar echoed into the hallways when I happened to be seeking nachos at a concession stand during the play).
Every game, I hoped a foul ball would land gently in my lap while simultaneously fearing that a foul ball would hit me in the head – since one actually did hit my grandma.
Looking back on these memories, I am re-thinking my determination that I am not much of an Orioles fan. That kid who loved attending the O’s game because of the atmosphere and who loved listening to Orioles games because it lulled her to sleep – that kid was an Orioles fan. That fan is still inside me whether I follow the team or not. Maybe it’s time to go back to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles play, or rather to fully enjoy the atmosphere, the Oriole Bird, the excitement of it all.
Kaitlin Glenn lives in St. Mary’s county tucked away in a pine grove with her husband, two children, and puppy dog. She works part-time in a physical therapy clinic and spends her other hours outdoors with her children, reading books, and taking deep breaths because life is full of hard things.
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.