NEW YORK - The finality slowly hit me.
The Orioles are done playing in 2012. The thrill ride has ended, final destination a long, long way from where it was expected to be back in spring training.
Remember spring training? Top stories included the arrival of Dontrelle Willis and Ronny Paulino's car, a highly unexpected appearance by slugger-turned-agent Gary Sheffield (whose client, pitcher Josh Banks, never made it out of minor league camp), former Oriole Jason Johnson's highly unexpected bullpen session, Dylan Bundy's highly anticipated first bullpen session, Tsuyoshi Wada's sore elbow, Taylor Teagarden's sore back, Zach Britton's sore shoulder, Nick Johnson's fragile wrist, Nolan Reimold's swollen face, Kevin Gregg's hurt feelings (he still wanted to be the closer), Jim Johnson's decreased velocity, Steve Johnson's increased popularity (his locker was next to one of the clubhouse fridges, the door constantly bumping into his chair.)
Dennys Reyes agreed to a minor league deal and abruptly retired, or so we were told. Nobody bothered to check.
Minor league catcher Michael Ohlman flipped his truck. A month later, he failed a drug test.
Remember Matt Antonelli? Jai Miller? Scott Beerer? Armando Galarraga? John Hester? Oscar Villarreal?
We never saw Dane Sardinha. We did see Jon Link, though it would have made for a clever headline if he had been missing.
I didn't expect to see Miguel Socolovich in Baltimore and never introduced myself to him. Then I saw him in Baltimore.
Josh Bell was one of the last to report and one of the first to leave. Alfredo Simon was a candidate to start or relieve. Then he was a Cincinnati Red.
Mark Reynolds, quizzed on the names of all the beat writers, forgot mine and referred to me as "muscle guy." One of my colleagues joked that anyone else would be offended, yet I took it as a compliment. Guilty as charged.
Pat Neshek, having read my name below a photo posted in a hallway outside the clubhouse - the Orioles put it there so players could more easily identify members of the media - completed an interview with me, took a question from another reporter and said, "As I was telling Roch." Except he pronounced it like it looks, with a "ch" sound.
It doesn't really seem that long ago, but the Orioles completed a 162-game season, won the wild card game and pushed the Yankees to five games in the American League Division Series. They had serious game.
I'm heading back to Baltimore this morning, half my suitcase stuffed with clothes I never wore on this trip. Thought I might, you know, be flying to Detroit or Oakland.
I can't thank you all enough for still sticking with me and enabling MASNsports.com put up record-setting numbers this year. Traffic, unique visitors, comments, you name it. This site blew up. This blog blew up. It doesn't work without you.
Are we done here? Absolutely not. I'm not going anywhere unless I'm designated for assignment. And if that happens, there's a good chance I'll clear waivers and be outrighted.
Bill Hall and Dana Eveland took turns explaining to me how that works.