Matthew Taylor: On 40th birthday, a surprise return to innocence

I celebrated my birthday in the Frank Robinson Suite at Camden Yards last weekend. It was an atypical setting for my family - you usually need binoculars to locate us in the upper reaches of the stadium - but this was a milestone occasion. I’m not afraid to tell you that I turned 40 this month. In baseball terms, I’d be in the twilight of my career; regardless, Jesse Orosco would still call me kid in the clubhouse. Age is relative.

The surprise trip to Camden Yards culminated three days of “Amazing Race”-style travel with my wife that enabled me to reconnect with friends and locations that carry special meaning for me. Our adventure illustrated the point that novelist Anna Sewell made in writing so many years earlier: “It is good people who make good places.”

Taylor 40th Birthday.jpgThere were many good people in the stadium that evening, ones who have made my life special, including - or rather, especially - my dad. A few months ago I longed for the opportunity to catch a game with him, an otherwise simple ask that became a desperate prayer following his cardiac arrest. As I wrote in January, “It’s difficult to reclaim pieces of your lost innocence in a hospital room; that’s what ballparks are for.”

As the host of my birthday party, dad was responsible once more for gathering the family together, only on much better terms this time around. We gladly traded the jarring rhythm of hospital monitors for the soothing hum of the home crowd. The ‘69 Mets have nothing on this miracle.

Amid the headiness of these dual celebrations, one of the years I’ve lived and the other of the years my father has left, I spied the real guest of honor seated with his arm around my son. This was the game within the game for me, the smaller, easily overlooked moment that influences the final outcome.

I celebrated my 17th birthday at Camden Yards in 1992. Dad sprang me from school to attend the first game played at the new stadium, an exhibition contest with the Mets that served as a dry run before the real opener three days later. Given an early glimpse of the ballpark that would change baseball, I wasn’t sold on the place. It lacked the warmth of memory. It felt unfamiliar.

Many trips to Camden Yards with good people helped me to identify it as a good place. And on Saturday, there was no place greater as the ballpark returned a piece of my innocence back to me.

Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. Follow him on Twitter: @RoarFrom34. 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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