My son hears J.J. Hardy's name on the Orioles broadcast and he starts a chant: "J.J. Hardy ... clap, clap, clap-clap-clap." He hears the familiar bugle music that long ago signaled the cavalry and he yells "Charge." He visits my office and immediately wants to see the "baseball men," meaning a Brian Matusz bobblehead and an Orioles garden gnome (It was a gift, OK? No judging.) He's either a fan of an Orioles legend or of off-color comedy because he plays with a replica statue and calls him "Eddie Murphy."
So there you have it. I've brainwashed my son into being an Orioles fan in three short years. And I've had help.
On the occasion of my son's first opening day in 2011, I wrote a blog post titled "Life Lessons for a Baseball Fan" in which I dispensed some fatherly advice for my newborn. Among those pearls of wisdom was the following: "I want you to be an independent thinker, so be a fan of any team you want. Just know that you'll make it much harder on your daddy if you cheer for the Yankees. And I'm the one who pays the bills."
I was sincere in my belief at the time. I didn't want my son to feel that he had to cheer for a team simply because I do. The truth is, though, that's the beauty of it. As I related to the guys on the Bird's Eye View podcast earlier this year, my own passion for the Orioles is borne largely from the memories I have of enjoying games with my dad growing up. I've written before that I've come to understand baseball as a "conversation between generations" in my family.
I have Orioles memories associated with both of my grandfathers. I still have the letter that my dad's father sent me following the 1983 World Series. He had drawn a picture of an orange and black hot air balloon with Rick Dempsey inside. He wrote, "When you're up, you're up. How about those Birds?" I would never have imagined that I'd enjoy the opportunity years later, with my grandfather having long since passed, to share that story with Rick Dempsey in person. What a pleasure.
Perhaps the most enduring image I have of my mother's father, a former Baltimore city cop, is of him sitting at the kitchen table with a bottle of beer and a radio tuned to the O's game. Nearly every visit began the same way, with my brothers and I asking him the leading question, "Grandpa, what do you think about the Orioles?" We knew it would get him worked up and invite some variation of the following response, "For chrissakes. They need pitching." Having watched the powerhouse teams of the late '60s and early '70s, he always had fair backing for that statement. Compared to those historical outfits, any team would need pitching.
My son never met his great-grandfathers. Thankfully, he does have the pleasure of knowing my dad, who is passing on the family tradition. His gifts to his grandson have included a Chris Davis bobblehead, a Chris Davis jersey, and a children's book about taking a tour of Camden Yards. Meanwhile, the "Gee, Thanks Brooks" print my father gave me hangs on my son's bedroom wall.
I guess the saying is true. Children learn what they live.
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.