Astronaut Terry Virts could take just a few items on his mission into outer space, but among those items was an Orioles jersey that he presented to manager Buck Showalter before Monday night’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
Virts, who was born in Baltimore and grew up in Columbia, spent seven months 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station. He was the commander of the Expedition 43 mission for his final four months in space.
Before Monday’s game, Virts presented Showalter with an orange Orioles jersey with Virts’ name and No. 43 on the back, the number of his mission.
A 1985 graduate of Oakland Mills High School, Virts grew up an Orioles fan. He attended the 1979 American League Championship Series against the California Angels and the World Series that year against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Virts even sold hot dogs at Memorial Stadium during one game of the 1983 World Series.
“I got a chance to go to the ’83 World Series as a worker,” Virts said. “I was selling hot dogs, but it was my chance to go to the game to raise money for a foreign exchange club at my high school. But it was a [chance] for me to see the World Series, so in between innings I’d sneak out and then go back to selling hot dogs.”
Before going to the ISS, Virts contacted the Orioles asking if he could take a team jersey into space. He also took an American flag and presented that to Fort McHenry earlier in the day Monday.
Virts said the late Orioles public relations director Monica Barlow and Orioles alumni director Bill Stetka jumped on board with Virts' idea.
“When I was flying on this mission, I contacted [the Orioles] and said, ‘Can I fly an Orioles jersey and hopefully you guys can put it on display at the stadium and it will be a nice connection with the folks in Baltimore that a local guy went into space and this jersey went into space?’”
During his time in space, Virts let his love for the Orioles show. During a spacewalk, he taped an Orioles logo to a robotic arm. He also wore a Matt Wieters T-shirt on his birthday in December, posting both photos on social media for all to see.
“I’d love to give it to Matt, but unfortunately it’s still in space,” Virts said. I’m waiting for the next ride for it to come back so when it comes back, it and an Orioles hat, that’s still in space too.”