Commentary: Getting back to sports, leaving behind the serious stuff

I think the most cynical, and funniest, thing I've heard spoken by a co-worker during my time as a journalist came from a photographer (I'm not saying who it was or what newspaper they work for), who said, "I don't know why bother writing long, complicated articles. Nobody reads the (expletive) things all the way through." The photographer in question was not being entirely serious, but I get the feeling sometimes they were right, because my columns never seem to generate feedback in any form, be it negative or positive. I'm not whining about people skipping over what I write, but it seems strange that even the weekly power polls I used to assemble, which you'd think would be a surefire way to get fans throwing their opinions my way, would be met with silence. My column from last week, however, was out of the ordinary in that I got some nice compliments on it. It surely didn't cover the sunniest of subjects (Vi Ripken's abduction and the Penn State sex scandal fallout), but knowing people do read my stuff keeps me going.

So, now that I'm done patting myself on the back, here are some numbers, facts and figures from the IronBirds' season thus far, taking into account all the games they've played through Sunday (I'm writing this Monday afternoon, as sports Editor Randy McRoberts is on vacation, and I'm not going to tempt fate by starting something two hours before my deadline Tuesday morning):

Transition to pitcher: My favorite story to emerge from Ripken Stadium so far involves 22-year-old St. Leonard native Tom Winegardner, who recently made one of the toughest transitions in baseball, moving from the infield to the pitcher's mound. Winegardner moved from Polk State College to Coastal Carolina University to Cumberland University before signing with the Orioles as an undrafted free agent last year. After 62 games spent mostly at shortstop and second base, Winegardner was sent back to Aberdeen from the Delmarva Shorebirds to try his hand at pitching after an Orioles' farm director heard he had served as a closer in college. Since making his mound debut on July 21, Winegardner has tossed five shutout innings over four appearances, and, most importantly, has earned a pair of victories, which gives him the best record (2-0) of any IronBirds' reliever.

Winegardner does not throw a knuckleball, but even so his transition makes me think of Tim Wakefield, who also made his pro pitching debut while playing in the New York-Penn League after signing as an infielder, and who went on to a 19-year big league career. The odds of that happening for anyone else are very long, but I still love stories like Winegardner's, and I hope he is able to move up the professional ladder as a hurler.

Blanked on Saturdays, best on Tuesdays: Through this past weekend, the IronBirds have yet to win any of their six Saturday matchups, while they have been most successful on Tuesdays, going 4-1 so far.

Early inning blues: Looking at Aberdeen's by-inning score differential, the IronBirds are pretty close to the opposition in the third through the eighth, and have been outscored 15-6 in the ninth. The first two innings, however, have seen Aberdeen allow 56 runs, and score just 30. That's nearly a 2-1 ratio, and that's no way to start off baseball games.

That's it for now, kids. I'll be back next Friday.

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