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Bird Brown: Baseball will soon be here, but will I care?

I know that it’s a bit early to start thinking about it, but with players trickling in to spring training camp, baseball is just around the corner which means it’s almost springtime!

Before long the preseason games will begin to work out the kinks and finalize the roster moving forward.

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A friend of mine who lives in Florida has already posted a picture of some buddies and him at one of the local parks where pitchers and catchers and anyone that had shown up early to get the extra work participated in a practice made up mostly of light stretching and catch.

I haven’t been much of a baseball fan in recent years, other than the October playoffs which are some of the most exciting in professional sports. It’s been hard to keep my interest after Memorial Day as the Orioles have been well out of the playoffs by the time we get out of school in most every year.

Growing up, I was raised to bleed blue and white out of one arm and black and orange out of the other. I’m not sure how it happened, because my grandfather, who was responsible for the initial brainwashing, worked at the old Griffith Park, home of the Washington Redskins and Washington Senators.

Somewhere along the way, my grandfather saw the future and did his best to raise me as a Colts and Orioles fan. And an obnoxious one at that.

The Colts went their Mayflower way and after years of exile as a Dolphins fan, Baltimore got the Ravens and back I came. Also along the way, even though they never left, the Orioles lost my interest and my heart.

I remember holding my breath going through the Harbor Tunnel on our way to 33rd Street because my grandfather told us we would drown if we tried to breathe. Even though we figured out after that first desperate gasp for air about halfway through the tunnel, we still did our best to go the distance every time we entered the tunnel.

There was another time my mother and I went with no tickets to the sold-out Orioles vs. Brewers game, watching through a hole in the center field fence on the last day of the season. As I got older, I went in with some of my friends from my insurance office for a 29-game season ticket plan.

When I went on the road, I would schedule my trips around when the Orioles were playing their away games in the cities where I had business. I would stay up late and watch the games in their entirety when they were on the West Coast.

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Even before the firing of Davey Johnson and the resignation of Pat Gillick, arguably the best GM/manager combination in baseball at the time, which I plastered all over “Bird at Play,” I started falling out of love with the team. I took my two boys at the time to a spring training game and many of the players were rude to their young and adoring fans, some even teasing them, which soured my taste for the players wearing my favorite baseball jersey.

Only first baseman Will Clark saved the day when he tossed a ball to my oldest and made his trip worthwhile.

The Orioles have endured many, many years of losing seasons and declining attendance. Since winning the AL East Division title in 1997 with 98 wins (and AL Manager of the Year award for Davey), the Orioles have broken .500 five times (2012-2016).

The last two years haven’t even been close.

So, I wouldn’t be wrong in saying the organization has contributed to my loss of interest and support of the team I grew up living and dying for. But I share an equal part in the malaise.

I gave up my season tickets. I stopped watching, not only the away games, but any Orioles games.

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I only go to games if I get free tickets and then I must have nothing to do before accepting them.

This year’s season will be something different to watch. With the major cheating scandal tainting the Houston Astros’ recent postseason success, and a tepid response from the commissioner, I just wonder how the other players who didn’t cheat — or at least didn’t get caught yet — are going to handle the Astros when they step up to the plate.

I will try to learn the names of some of the players the Orioles will send out on Opening Day. I have a family interest in watching the success of up and coming left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmerman, a non-roster invitee to spring training. I’ll try to turn on the game and root for the hometown team.

Once again, as we do every year, we’ll look to Opening Day with the hopes of that 7-year-old boy holding his breath through the Harbor Tunnel.

Author Anne Bradstreet wrote, “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."

After years of adversity, I think it’s a time for a little prosperity in Camden Yards.

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