A day for giving thanks

The date on the calendar, the 15-pound thawed turkey in the refrigerator and the forced viewing of a Lions game indicate that it’s time again to give thanks, something that should be done on a daily basis, but tends to slip through life’s cracks.

There’s the most obvious starting point - canned cranberry sauce.

OK, seriously, it’s family. Including my new wife and 14-month-old granddaughter who makes it impossible to remember what life was like before her arrival. She’s such a blessing.

I swore that I wouldn’t be that grandparent who takes 1,000 photos and videos, and shoves my phone in people’s faces and talks about her incessantly, but that’s exactly who I am. And I don’t apologize for it.

My mother is here and healthy. My sister is one of my best friends, and she makes a fantastic homemade cranberry sauce that I refuse to eat mostly to annoy her - and knowing that she’ll bring the canned stuff for me because I’m spoiled. My daughter is the gift that keeps on giving and she married the right guy, a proud girl dad who also is so incredibly handy that I don’t have to keep paying strangers to fix stuff around the house.

The list goes on and on, but this is supposed to be about sports, so let’s get to it before I begin stressing again about overcooking the turkey, which may or may not have happened last year.

What happens in our kitchen stays in our kitchen.

* I’m thankful for everyone and everything responsible for bringing Trey Mancini back to full health, including fiancée Sara Perlman, and his rightful place in the lineup.

Mancini will need to build an addition to his house to display his Comeback Player of the Year awards. No one has ever been more deserving.

Now he can proceed without being a candidate for them in the future. No more setbacks that require a comeback.

* I’m thankful for the news that Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in the 2020 draft, was cleared for workouts at the fall instructional camp. That he seems on the road to a normal life - not just baseball - after a diagnosis of myocarditis prevented him from playing and forced another shutdown earlier this year.

Kjerstad is confident that he can be full-go for spring training at the minor league complex and begin his professional career, wherever the Orioles assign him.

He’s been able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the ordeal. Good for him.

Thumbnail image for Means-Hugs-After-No-Hitter-Sidebar.jpg* I’m thankful for Google and the ability to quickly perform frantic searches when someone like John Means is flirting with a no-hitter. Or when the Orioles are on the other end of one.

A list of previous no-hitters is at my sweaty fingertips.

It’s not like I’m capable of memorizing it or possess the confidence that I’m not botching the spelling of Hisashi Iwakuma’s name.

(It wasn’t until again looking up the box score for this note that I remembered how former Orioles catcher Jesús Sucre was behind the plate for Iwakuma’s no-hitter in Seattle.)

* I’m thankful for a public relations staff, which includes people who left before the 2021 season and those who are in the organization, that has done everything possible to lessen the impact of the media restrictions imposed during the pandemic.

Anyone thinking it’s less work to set up Zoom calls than open the doors to the clubhouse is badly mistaken.

Player availability is a lot more complicated with the staggered arrival times and commitments that can delay or prevent it. And with every media request needing to go through PR rather than being satisfied by simply walking to or staking out a locker.

Not to mention the responsibility to keep everyone safe after pregame field access was granted.

Probably just as challenging as keeping track of the roster, with the Orioles using a club-record 62 players.

* I’m thankful for any transaction that provided copy, especially as the losses were mounting.

Jorge Mateo and his blazing speed? Yes, please.

Jahmai Jones’ arrival from Triple-A Norfolk, which placated fans who kept venting about the delay? Yes. Oh, yes, please.

Chris Davis’ retirement? Sure, though finding out about it while exiting a Jiffy Lube wasn’t ideal timing.

* I’m thankful for players who remain the same with the media while going through bad slumps or demotions. Who are patient and accessible, who know what’s coming and understand why.

There are plenty in the organization, but I’ll start with Mancini, Means, Paul Fry, Hunter Harvey, Jorge López, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle. And honestly, I’m just scratching the surface. It’s a good clubhouse.

I don’t take it for granted, because I’ve seen the opposite during my many years on the beat.

Let’s also toss manager Brandon Hyde into this conversation. He’s been incredibly patient while fielding the same questions about injuries, the club’s struggles, the rebuild.

If there’s a Gold Glove for that, he should at least be a finalist.

* I’m thankful for the wisdom and common sense that always prevail when there’s the threat of a lockout due to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.

I’m equally thankful for my sarcasm.

* I’m thankful for catchers who can catch the ball.

You really learn to appreciate that skill when someone is behind the plate who can do it.

I mean, “catch” is in the description. You’d think it would be a requirement.

* I’m thankful for the analytics that finally penetrated the organization and allow me to view and understand the game in a different way. That are having such a positive influence on so many players.

I’m also thankful for eyes that enable me to look beyond them and still judge a player and team in more traditional ways.

The two can coexist.

* I’m thankful for Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, because it all starts with starting pitching and they’re projected to be really, really good.

(Sorry, I got confused and picked up Hyde’s list.)

* I’m thankful that my name isn’t “Potential Spam.”

No one would take my calls.

* I’m thankful for this community of fans who remain loyal to me and coverage of a team that’s going through such a painful period.

Some of you leave and come back. Some leave and never return, or at least stop posting comments. Most of you hang tough.

It must be my wicked sense of humor or the weird perception that there’s a cash prize for doing it.

Whatever the cause, I’m most appreciative and never take you for granted. Don’t quit me.

* I’m thankful for my job. I mean, just having one.

I know too many talented people in this business and in baseball who have been left scrambling to find work, who deserved a lot better than what they got. Many have landed on their feet. I hope the others do, too.

And yes, it’s more than just a paycheck for me. I cover baseball for a living and the record doesn’t drag me down into a pit of misery.

I grew up rooting for this team, shed my fandom after joining the beat, and still step back on occasion and remind myself that, as a kid growing up in Severn whose mood often was dictated by the scores of the Orioles and Colts games, I never imagined that one day I’d be sitting next to Jim Palmer or Ben McDonald in the MASN booth for an in-game hit. Or checking my missed calls, seeing Rick Dempsey’s name and playfully having to convince him that I wasn’t screening the 1983 World Series MVP.

Or having a vote for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards and the Hall of Fame. Or a drive to the ballpark or ride in a cab being my version of going to work.

Or being soaked in beer and champagne on my drive home without stepping inside a bar.

This job is a tremendous grind and a lot harder than it appears if done properly. But I’m blessed to have it, and for so long.

(Hopefully, I can add this to the list of things I’m incapable of jinxing, like no-hitters.)

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