Your new Orioles beat writer has been connected to this franchise a long time -- almost since birth.

Had the Yankees not beaten the Orioles for the AL East title in 1976, I would have been named after Orioles rookie outfielder Andres Mora. Instead, I was named after right-hander Ed Figueroa, who won 19 games that year for New York.

The bet that my parents made literally made me who I am. So baseball's always been in my blood.

So here I am 35 years later, Eduardo Andres Encina, your new Baltimore Orioles beat writer.

This opportunity is a special one for me. I grew up in Howard County. As a kid, I spent countless Sunday afternoons in the gold outfield bleachers of Memorial Stadium. The Baltimore Sun hit my front porch every day. I was in the top two seats in the right-field corner of the upper deck for the last game at Memorial Stadium. I saw Ken Griffey Jr. hit the Warehouse in the 1993 Home Run Derby. 

This sport has always been a big part of my life. I always wanted to cover baseball, and I always wanted to cover it in my hometown. Having said that, being homegrown, I hope to provide a unique perspective in covering the Orioles.

I spent the past seven years in Florida, where I spent some of that time covering the Tampa Bay Rays, so I'm very familiar with the AL East. I've covered my share of painful, bullpen-emptying battles for fourth place between the O's and Devil Rays. But I also had an inside view of the early workings of how the Rays built a winner without emptying their pocketbooks.

I'm happy to be back home -- even though I have just three sweaters to my name. And being a local, I know this: While the baseball fans here in Baltimore are frustrated by the Orioles' string of 14 straight losing seasons, the fan base here is still rabid. And I can promise you this: I will do everything to provide the readership with fair and balanced coverage of the team.

I'm stepping into huge shoes. I've long respected my predecessor, Jeff Zrebiec, and Dan Connolly has been my guy since we worked at the York (Pa.) Daily Record a few gray hairs ago. But hopefully I will continue to raise the standard of coverage that readers have learned to expect from The Sun.

I hope to make covering this beat as interactive as possible, so don't hesitate to drop me a line. I'm only a few keystrokes away by email at eencina@baltsun.com and on Twitter at @EddieInTheYard. I'm always interested in the pulse of the fans.

Just please, no more Prince Fielder questions! :)