I'm sure you all missed me very much; I was vacation for the last two weeks, and so my columns were being filled in by other Aegis reporters while I tramped all across the world. That's a lie. I didn't even leave Maryland during my two-week break, and most of my off time was spent wrapping up a few final projects for school. So, when you boil it down, I took a vacation to do homework, and that has to be the lamest complete clause I've ever written. I'm taking this as a lesson, and doing something exciting next year (I say that every year and it still hasn't happened).
I know in the weeks to come you're going to see a few "Best of 2013" lists in this newspaper, but I wanted to beat a few of those to print by throwing my own, subjective list out there a few weeks before the year wraps up. Here are the moments and events that resonated most deeply with me.
At the top of the list, I would have to put the IronBirds making the New York-Penn League playoffs for the first time in team history. I don't mean to say that I wasn't as impressed with any of the other local teams that did well this year (more on a couple of them shortly), but I feel more connected to the IronBirds simply because I spend so much time at Ripken Stadium during the baseball season. When I almost got into a fist fight with another reporter inside the Ripken Stadium press box during the 2012 state baseball championships, my instinct was to yell, "I've been in this more booth than everyone up here combined," and I would not have been lying had I said that. From mid-June through early-September, I'm there for most of Aberdeen's home games, so I get fairly invested in how well, or poorly, the IronBirds are playing. Watching the team win its final five regular-season games, as Aberdeen did this year, is exhilarating, while seeing it lose 17 of its first 19 matchups, as it did in 2010, is just depressing. And, there was much more of the latter during the six seasons I've covered the IronBirds, as Aberdeen had finished at the bottom of the McNamara division during the first five of those years.
But, 2013 was just electric. Every time I counted Aberdeen out, thought that Brooklyn or Hudson Valley was going to go on a hot streak and dash any playoff hopes, the IronBirds would win three straight and put themselves right back in it. Then, they went 6-1 in the final week of the regular season to win the division for the first time. Their playoff appearance ended with two straight losses, but I can say, with no small amount of confidence, that the first of those two games was one of the best I've ever covered, in any sport. Aberdeen's Sebastian Vader tossed 8-1/3 innings of shutout ball, while Tri-City's Michael Feliz countered with seven scoreless innings. Tri-City won, 1-0, then eliminated Aberdeen the next night with a 3-0 victory. Perhaps it was a letdown for things to end with two shutout losses, but that shouldn't put a damper on such a great season. I hope I get to cover another playoff run.
Second on the list of memorable 2013 campaigns would go to the Bel Air baseball team, which brought home the 3A state title. Now, I go into every single baseball season thinking that someone from the UCBAC can bring home a state championship, because the level of play in both divisions, Chesapeake and Susquehanna, is so high. I've seen plenty of teams get close, win regional titles and make it past the state semifinal round, but only the C. Milton Wright team, with its undefeated run in 2010, had delivered prior to this year. The Bobcats battled all through their season, and, following back-to-back one run losses to Patterson Mill and North East, won their final 12 games in a row.
Though I was not there in person to witness the state final game, as I had been assigned to cover a boys soccer matchup while a reporter from a sister newspaper took care of the 3A field hockey championship, C. Milton Wright's title run has to go on this list. As I've written before, no team besides Fallston has brought home a field hockey crown during my time with The Aegis. As with baseball, I go into every season thinking it's going to happen, because Harford County has great field hockey teams, but only Fallston has delivered. CMW lost just once in 19 games this season, but other than the 1-0 defeat at the hands of Hereford, they were perfect. Well done, Mustangs.