Orioles Manager Dave Trembley met a handful of fans in a private side room at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore's Inner Harbor today with a smile as warm as the weather.
On an unseasonably nice day in November, the O's skipper got up at 3:00 a.m. to leave his sunny Daytona Beach home for a 5:00 a.m. flight to Baltimore; but he wasn't headed back to Charm City on business. Today, he traveled back to the home of the O's to have lunch with the winners of MASN's first fantasy baseball league on MASNsports.com - But don't think the day of travel was a labor for the skipper.
"If there are people who love baseball as much as I do, I'm comin' up [to meet you]," Trembley told Sean Kates, Paul Drew, Allen File, and Molly Abend, MASNsports.com's first round of Bird-fan fantasy baseball winners.
Not to mention, Dave wasn't the only one who traveled a distance to attend the winners' lunch this afternoon.
After making it through months of competition to come out on top of MASNsports.com's first-ever fantasy baseball league, the assembled group of dedicated O's fans traveled from South Carolina, Delaware, Washington D.C. and the surrounding area to spend a few hours with the skipper, who did his best to make the lunch a memorable one.
Falling into easy chatter with the fans spread out in front of him as the lunch began to take shape, Trembley then broke the afternoon wide open when the menus had been collected, encouraging the winners to, "Give it to me straight," Trembley said, "What do you like and what do you not like? Be honest - I mean it. Ask me anything. I won't be offended and I'll tell you."
And he did.
Someone would say, "I remember the game when..." and Trembley would finish the thought with, "You know what really happened there? I'll tell you."
He was honest about a game he clearly loves, for better or worse at times, and his candid stories filled the small room with an air of baseball that you can only get from an old-school baseball guy who's been there.
And the winners taught Trembley a thing or two about fantasy baseball when he admitted he'd never realized how much can go into participating in a league throughout the season.
"Who was your best pitcher?" Trembley asked them. "What was your secret [to winning]?"
"Well it was all about pitching," Molly Abend said.
"Isn't it always?" Trembley answered with a look of understanding and a grin.
As the group finished their meals and the winners were offered ESPN Zone game cards, they chose instead to stay right where they were and talk more with the skipper.
They talked pitching and playoffs, reminisced about old Orioles and speculated over potential new ones, and shared thoughts on their favorite (and least favorite) O's.
Know what Trembley likes to do with the most laid back of his offseason days?
"I like to ride my bike on the beach and think about my lineup," Trembley said simply.
So what's it look like this early in the winter? It changed twice during the two-hour lunch this afternoon and will undoubtedly change a few dozen more times before spring training. But thanks to their expertise in MASN's fantasy baseball league this season, Molly, Paul, Sean, and Allen are four people who can say they knew right where it was at in the skipper's mind in November.
Finally, when the lunch neared its end, Trembley gladly signed baseballs and posed for photos, and the winners seemed to agree that the O's manager was "down-to-earth," "straightforward" and more candid and open than they had expected a major league skipper to be.
Wish your lunch hour could match up with theirs? Look out for fantasy baseball here on MASNsports.com again next season, and congrats again to this year's winners.