Countdown to baseball: Is it Baltimore’s moment to shine? | COMMENTARY

Catcher Adley Rutschman talks with pitcher Grayson Rodriguez during spring training at the Orioles' facility in Sarasota, Florida, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023.

There is much trouble in the world. The war in Ukraine rages on one year after the Russian invasion. Washington politics have become so polarized that loose talk of a “national divorce” is not wholly dismissed, and relations with China are tense. It’s enough to make one yearn for the kind of conflict where opponents not only shake hands before the contest, but can embrace each other after — where the rules are clear, mutually agreed upon and strictly enforced.

In short, we yearn for baseball.


Ladies and gentlemen, please check your calendars. We are now four weeks from opening day for the Baltimore Orioles (five if you are looking for the home opener), and we welcome the return of competitions that can bring whole communities together.

The Ravens had a big, exciting season, no doubt. Speculation about Lamar Jackson’s future will continue to provide fodder for sports writers for many more weeks to come. And March Madness looks promising, with fans of the University of Maryland Terrapins men’s and women’s basketball teams eagerly awaiting their place in the NCAA tournament bracket. Oh, and a shoutout to Johns Hopkins men’s hoops, a top-20 team in Division III.


But Baltimore is, at its heart, a baseball town. As Cal Ripken Jr. once observed as his name and “iron man” achievements became forever linked with those of the legendary Lou Gehrig, “This is the greatest place to play.”

It’s not just about the past tradition, it’s about the future progress. Fans will recall that the Orioles made some extraordinary gains last season. The turnaround from perennial cellar dwellers, with 100-plus losses each season, to contenders finishing with an 83-79 record was one for the record books — and it nearly earned Brandon Hyde the title of American League Manager of the Year. And the team is likely to get better. The prognosticators are already penciling them in as potential American League East champs this fall. The Orioles haven’t achieved that feat since 2014 when the roster included J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. But that was then. The Birds are now the team of Cedric Mullins, Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Felix Bautista.

Is Baltimore ready for this kind of success, or are we bracing for disappointment, which, let’s face it, would be a very Baltimore thing to do, too? Not all the news coming out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards this offseason has been cheery. Ownership remains in dispute as the family of Peter Angelos seeks to settle their differences. There’s been a lack of investment in the payroll with no big signings. It’s still not 100% certain the team will stay, as their Camden Yards lease is set to expire this year. Whatever happens, will happen without the presence of a certain sign advertising a certain 186-year-old daily newspaper that has graced a certain center field scoreboard for the ballpark’s first 30 years. (And by the way, thanks for the kind words, Baltimoreans. We’ll miss that view, too).

But isn’t that how relationships — the meaningful, lifelong variety — work? Life is not all easy fly balls in center field and perfect pitches, not all sweet swings and home runs that bounce off the warehouse. If there are no setbacks, there is no opportunity to overcome them. There’s a reason why batters get three strikes before they are out, and hitting the ball (or even just getting on base) just one out of every three attempts makes you an all-star. The game is designed to be hard, to make you confront failure. That’s the beauty of it. That’s where the joy comes from.

See why Baltimore is about baseball? Why a day of warm weather raises hope? Failure is not exactly unknown here. Neither is grit. We get up, dust ourselves off and get back in the batter’s box. For now, we watch the Florida Grapefruit League (or at least glance at the box scores) and wait for a return of the Birds to Baltimore this spring. It can’t happen too soon.

Baltimore Sun editorial writers offer opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. They operate separately from the newsroom.