I think that most people my age in this area have very similar stories with regard to the Orioles. Our parents raised us as O's fans and we grew up idolizing Cal Ripken Jr. I'm no different, as Cal was my boyhood hero, however I liked him for a slightly different reason. The best memories of my life were spent at my grandparents' house in Rising Sun, Md., which is about 15 miles from Aberdeen. My dad and my uncles passed their love of this team onto me, and I was told that Eddie Murray and Ripken were the two guys to watch. When they told me that Cal was from Aberdeen, he instantly became my favorite.
Those times are now passed, and suddenly I'm in my early 30s watching the Orioles unveil a bronze statue of my boyhood hero. I'll be very honest; I miss those days in Rising Sun very much. My grandparents are now deceased, and things are just different. Yet seeing that ceremony last week - and, of course, the game that followed - struck a nerve in me. Anything involving Cal will always bring me back to that guilded era in my own life, especially under the circumstances that we saw last week. The ceremony itself was enough, but the game (especially given the standings) was almost as Ripken-esque.
As you can see, I get very reflective when I start talking about Cal. People come and go as time goes on, but we all reach points where we want to try to hold onto things that we treasure from the past. That's why it was what Cal said during a lighter moment Thursday that struck me the most. When he was in the MASN booth with Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick, he asked about how to watch the field (on the live monitor) in preparation for calling yesterday's game on TBS. Thorne said that it was really up to the person; Cal's response was, "So what you're saying is that you kind of have to find your own way."
That's great life advice, as well as very fitting for the now Nick Markakis-less Orioles. These statue unveilings this season have been a spectacular agknowledgement of the past. Honestly, there's nothing that the Orioles could ever do - short of winning a World Series - that could encompass the history of the franchise and reach out to their fans that would top this. Seeing all of these guys - Frank, Earl, Jim, Eddie, Cal, Brooks, and others - at these ceremonies brings us all back to our respective Rising Sun times in life.
However, that's the past; it'll always be there when we want to visit it. More important than any statue or ceremony, the 2012 Orioles need to worry about continuing to win games. Obviously, over the weekend that got a lot more challenging in losing Markakis. But the point is that while we want to remember and lovingly respect the past, if we get too caught up in it, we put the present and future at risk.
So the message here is that we have to find our own ways in life. The 2012 O's have done that very well to this point, withstanding yesterday's blowout loss. Moving forward, the road gets tougher with one of their key players out of the lineup. However, it hasn't been easy getting to where they are now; why should the rest of the way be any different? Did the 1983 team not deal with injuries, rivals, controversy, etc.? How about the 1970 team or the 1997 team? Ripken played every day for 2,362 consecutive games; if one guy can do that, anything's possible. We can't return to those Rising Sun moments because they're gone. But we can move forward, and in doing so continue what's been started before us.
All of that said, Thursday night was one of the best moments for Orioles fans in quite some time. Believe me when I say that I love honoring the past and I feel that we have a duty to do so. However, we also need to make our own ways in life, and the same holds true for the current Orioles. Losing Markakis was tough, however it's just another challenge. Perhaps the way of this team is to rise up and meet every challenge. Perhaps it's impromptu heroes stepping up when needed. Whichever way they choose one thing is for sure; it's the Oriole way.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. 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.