How Orioles pitched in to craft a love story

The first tweet sent to me was ignored. The second elicited a response that, upon review, still makes me cringe.

Emily contacted me in early 2014, requesting an interview for a freelance writing class at Towson University. She needed a “local celebrity” and was a big fan of the Orioles and my work.

I wrote back, “I’m sure we can work something out.”

Better than a “no,” but still pretty cold given where this story leads.

She was coming to spring training in Sarasota, Fla., staying with a friend in Fort Myers, and hoped to meet me. I asked how much time she’d need for her interview, she replied 45 minutes and I shot her down as if she were a clay pigeon.

We agreed to work out a compromise, but I was slow responding to follow-up tweets leading up to her visit - to the point where she was the one who turned cold and basically told me to forget about it. And yes, there’s tone in a tweet.

I promised to step outside of the press box before first pitch, did a quick check, didn’t see anyone fitting her description and went back inside. Soon after, Wanda the press box attendant tapped me on the shoulder and said a young lady was asking for me.

I headed out the door, saw a pretty, smiling face, a tank top and shorts, and turned into the most cooperative interview subject in recorded history. I’m nothing if not shallow.

Forget a rushed pregame chat. Let’s meet after the game, where we’d have more time and in a more relaxed environment.

The plan morphed into a poolside chat at my hotel, with beers from the lobby bar. The interview lasted 45 minutes and 54 seconds.

We vibed, as the kids say. Very relaxed and comfortable, with more in common than you might expect with a 14-year age gap.

Years later, I still denied that I was flirting - my argument against it ruined when she played back the recording. Of course, she laughed at every single thing I said, and I’m not that funny.

I suggested that we grab dinner and we eventually settled on Hyde Park Steakhouse, because there was no parking on Main Street and I knew that establishment had valet. It’s so ... me.

I asked whether she liked steak, which seems foolish now considering how much of it we’ve consumed. She should carry her own monogrammed knife.

We agreed to stay in touch after she returned home. I gave her a check to pay for her rental car, which she needed to get back to Fort Myers after her friend ditched her, unable to hang for our postgame interview plan. She never cashed it and still laughs about how this guy she just met handed her a check at the end of the night. I didn’t have any cash on me and was dropping her off at the Sarasota airport.

My attempt at being a gentleman humorously backfired.

Roch-and-Emily-Sidebar.jpgI tell this story, on an Orioles blog, because we’re getting married later today, though no longer in the backyard of the home we purchased in November 2019. My positive COVID-19 test two days before the ceremony, and all the non-refundable money, has moved us indoors.

I proposed in March 2020, a week before spring training shut down due to the pandemic, at the exact spot where we met. A gamble, for sure, considering that I was kneeling on the ramp next to a concession stand.

She said “yes” anyway. Like I should have done immediately after she first tweeted me.

We’ve always worked in reverse, like buying a house before getting engaged. I had my spring training plan and kept telling her to “trust the process” whenever she’d express her frustration over my reluctance to marry her. I used the phrase so often, Mike Elias should be officiating the wedding. I also made her a grandmother before we were married.

This all began because of the Orioles, who did a lot more in 2014 besides win their division and reach the American League Championship Series.

They brought Emily and me together.

She isn’t nearly the fan that she used to be, which I liken to peeking behind the curtain at Oz. She sees how much the job takes out of me and takes me away from her. She hears my complaints and the inside dirt. Past frustrations and sadness over losing seasons or playoff defeats are replaced by the joy she feels at having me around in October.

Oh, she’ll take the postseason wins - she hung on every pitch at a Canton bar during the 2016 wild card game and walked out quietly, without any goodbyes to her friends, after Ubaldo Jimenez’s last pitch. She was crushed. But she also loved that I could cancel my hotel reservation in Arlington, Texas, and spend the early morning hours trying to get out of Canada.

She also doesn’t read the blog nearly as much anymore unless I ask her to proofread an article. I tease her about it, but she’s incredibly busy doing much more important work as senior director of programs at the Maryland Food Bank - feeding the hungry while I dish out stale quips. She probably won’t even read this. She’s more interested in when I’m going to start writing my vows.

Maybe I just did.

Opening day used to be her Christmas. She was like Jimmy Fallon with the Red Sox in “Fever Pitch.” But her love shifted away from a team of strangers and directly to me, and for that I’m forever grateful.

This afternoon, with rain in the forecast again but unable to cause a delay that would have been so appropriate, and more than seven years after a meeting that almost didn’t happen, I get to record a win in October.

A walk-off down the aisle.

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