I received a text message from my good pal and former college roommate Reilly last week asking when we could get together. It had been far too long and different jobs in different locations have made it more difficult to get together than either of us probably ever would have imagined during our days in Tower B at Towson University.
Reilly asked what my plans were and I told him I was booked up Wednesday night and during the day Thursday, as I had tickets to watch the Orioles face the Rays at Camden Yards.
“What, do you go to every game, no?” Reilly jokingly asked.
I was unable to get together with him the previous Thursday because I went to Cal Ripken’s sculpture unveiling with my dad and uncle.
“It’s a pennant race,” I said. “I’m trying to see this team as much as I can.”
And I’m certainly glad I did.
Sept. 6 was the perfect day to honor Cal Ripken Jr. Beautiful weather, a jam-packed ballpark and a dramatic comeback win for the good guys.
The Orioles threw fans a curveball with Cal’s sculpture. Looking at the remaining empty statue bases, I assumed that Ripken’s sculpture would be from the famous 2131 wave. However, I was glad to see the Orioles recognize the Iron Man for more than just his career-defining consecutive games streak.
Of course, the game itself was arguably the best one I have ever attended at Oriole Park. The Birds jumped out to a 6-1 lead behind homers from Matt Wieters, Robert Andino and Mark Reynolds. Then the Yankees fired back with five runs of their own in the eighth inning and knotted the game at six.
There have been numerous points throughout this incredible season in which I have thought to myself, “This is it, this will be the moment that the Orioles collapse.” After the top of eighth on Sept. 6, I thought I had just witnessed that moment.
But Adam Jones crushed a 1-2 pitch from David Robertson and belted what he called the most important home run of his career, 422 feet, to give the O’s the lead back. As I watched the ball leave the Yard from our cheap seats in the upper deck, I cheered like I’ve never cheered before. It was an emotional cheer, one unlike any other that I’ve ever taken part of in my years attending various sporting events.
This wasn’t just an ordinary home run, it was a statement from a team and a for a fanbase that has been starving for a winner for 14 years. With that bomb, Jones told the world that the Orioles aren’t going away.
Then Reynolds and Chris Davis went back-to-back for good measure.
A group of us from BaltimoreSportsReport.com jumped all over the Orioles “BUCKle Up” ticket promotion and purchased seats for last Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. While Camden Yards was only slightly over half-full, the crowd was electric and into the game throughout every pitch.
The Orioles rewarded the 26,076 in attendance with a stellar walk-off win in Game 2 of the series. Twenty-year-old Manny Machado made a brilliant, veteran-like play at third base with a runner at second and two outs. Evan Longoria hit a weak slow roller down the line, Machado charged the ball and he faked a throw to first that forced pinch runner Rich Thompson off the bag at third and caught him in a rundown for the final out in the top of the ninth.
I listened to Gary Thorne’s call on MLB.com after the game, and it seemed like he verbalized what was going through my mind as the play was occuring. Machado scored the game-winning run on a Nate McLouth RBI single in the bottom half of the inning and even got props after the game from Rays skipper Joe Maddon.
As we exited the ballpark, fans crowded around a TV in one of the bars on Eutaw Street to watch the final few outs of the Yankees-Red Sox game to see if the Orioles could grab sole possession of first place in the East. The Sox fell 5-4, but that didn’t slow the Orioles down in their day game on Thursday.
Up until last week, I had never taken part in the 14th inning stretch at a baseball game. That changed during the five-hour, 14-minute marathon I attended Sept. 13 with my buddy Patrick.
We had no idea what the Orioles had in store for us when we hit the Natty Boh Bar at 12:30 p.m., but 16 combined pitchers and a Machado extra-inning walk-off later, we were more than happy we came to the Yard to watch the Orioles win their 27th one-run game and 13th extra-inning affair.
That dramatic win concluded a difficult Orioles homestand as the Birds finished 5-2 in seven games against two division foes, the Yankees and Rays.
This is a different feeling than I’m used to at this point in the season as an Orioles fan. I was 9 the last time the Orioles played this well. Now I’m an adult who’s merely acting like a 9-year-old every time I watch this team take the field. Why shouldn’t I? My favorite baseball team is half a game back in the American League East and now three games ahead of the Angels for the second wild card spot.
I’m sure Reilly and I will get together soon. Perhaps we’ll be sitting in the bleachers together come October.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. His views 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.