Matthew Taylor: The people behind the stories bring fun to the game

The Orioles are 382-544 since I started Roar from 34 in 2006, which begs the question of what reward there is in blogging about a losing team. I'm my own boss, and I work from home, but I don't get paid and the hours stink. In truth, my reasons for researching and writing about the Orioles for nearly six years are many and varied. I suppose the easiest answer is that I love a good story, and blogging allows me to tell stories. Even better, it allows me to learn other people's stories - and not just those of the players.

Take, for example, Ron, an O's fan since 1954. He contacted me earlier this season in response to a piece I wrote about the Kiddie Corps. Ron was in a different Corps in 1960 - the Marines Corps. He acquired contraband from his aunt in Washington, D.C., during boot camp, namely a subscription to the Baltimore News-American. Ron wanted to keep up with his favorite team, so much so that he endured the wrath of his drill instructor, who intercepted the contraband newsprint. Said wrath included push-ups, squat thrusts and all manner of grueling exercises each day as the drill instructor, a baseball player himself, read aloud the latest scores and updated standings.

Ron wrote the following in his email to me: "I lucked out. I missed a great season, but kept up to date." He missed the 1966 season, and the Orioles' first World Series championship, while serving in Vietnam. And here I thought it was difficult to endure bad baseball.

But it's not only the lifelong Orioles fans who have written to me.
There's the fan living in Red Sox country who grew up listening to O's games on the radio in D.C. She lost touch with the Birds for several years but recently found her way back to her childhood team and, by some measure of chance, my blog. We exchanged messages about past greats and the Birds' quick start to the season in April. She wrote of the Orioles, "It's nice to have heroes again."

But it's not only Orioles fans whose messages have reached my Inbox.

Norm is a Yankees fan living in Sarasota, Fla. He loves baseball. How could he not, having grown up rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers while living in the shadows of Ebbets Field? We connected a few years ago while Norm was advocating for the Orioles to make Sarasota their spring training home. Here's the YouTube clip of one of his appearances before the Sarasota City Commission. I regrettably poked fun at that video on my blog without knowing Norm or the full context of the debate. He responded via email and held me accountable.

Our initial misunderstanding dissolved over time as we corresponded about current baseball issues and past baseball greats. Norm has generously allowed me to post many of his great spring training photos on my blog. This spring he acquired tickets to a sold-out spring training game for a family friend. He's even been photographed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wearing an Orioles jersey. In May, the Sarasota Convention and Visitor's Bureau presented him the Voice of Sarasota Award as part of the 2011 National Tourism Week Awards.

Turns out not all Yankees fans are so bad.

As I said earlier, I love a good story. I'm grateful that others have taken the time to share theirs with me.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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