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Life lesson from the Orioles: the importance of playing the long game

Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey talks about his mullet haircut that he first start wearing in 2014 with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

It has been 21 years since I moved to suburban Baltimore from my hometown in the Finger Lakes. I migrated south to live with, and later marry, my college sweetheart. A lot has changed since the summer of 1998, most significantly the arrival of our two children, Lucy and Isaac, who are now 11 and 9.

Before the kids came along, we did a lot of the usual 20-something, Charm City couple things, including going to Camden Yards on random weeknights after work just because we could. We watched Albert Belle have some really good — and then not so good — games. I developed a crush on B.J. Surhoff and cried right along with him when he got traded to the Braves. We ate ballpark hot dogs and giant cinnamon-sugar covered pretzels and did the wave alongside thousands of fellow fans.

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I forget exactly when we stopped regularly doing those things. I’m sure the arrival of a baby and then another baby had something to do with it. But this summer, the kids were suddenly old enough to develop their own interest in the Orioles. We found ourselves watching games on TV every night and buying two Junior Orioles Dugout Club ticket subscriptions to go to several poorly attended Sunday afternoon games as a family.

It has been fun to see Lucy and Isaac engage with the game, the team and the trappings of baseball. They both love to impart biographical tidbits about the players, like how Trey Mancini shares my birthday, but I had it first. Lucy thinks batters should consider bunting more often, and Isaac might have a future as a play-by-play color commentator. My husband and I follow local sports reporters on Twitter and share their factoids with each other during the games. We try to like as many of their tweets as we can because, let’s face it, covering the O’s these days might just feel like a thankless task. And since B.J. Surhoff is no longer on the team, I’ve had to start admiring the younger generation of Orioles. When I point out Richie Martin’s lovely eyes and dimples or Dwight Smith Jr.’s killer smile, my kids roll their eyes and gag, but I can take it.

Watching the games as a family has been a summertime highlight that I didn’t see coming. That we’ve rekindled our interest in the Orioles during a statistical dud of season hasn’t put a damper on our enthusiasm. In fact, it has been an excellent way to teach our kids about the importance of playing the long game, both as a sports fan and in life in general.

I love that our kids are learning about ERAs, RBIs and inside-the-park home runs while also learning how to bolster their disappointments during the losing games by looking for the bright spots. Sure, we’ve seen a lot of wobbly fielding and whiffs at bat since April. But we’ve also marveled at some great home run-stealing catches in the outfield and watched our batters hit home runs of their own. And when the hitting wasn’t so great, we appreciated how they tried to jack up opposing teams’ pitch counts by taking their time at the plate. We were at Camden Yards when Rio Ruiz hit a spectacular walk-off home run against the Astros even though the odds were stacked against the O’s. Coincidentally, we were treated to another walk-off win when we went to see the Ironbirds’ last home game of the season.

The point I’m hoping my kids take away from their first full season as Orioles fans is that on and off the field, you’ll face your share of slumps, but there will be flashes of brilliance along the way. There are 54 outs in a game and there are great moments to be had, even during a losing game, and this family of Orioles fans is choosing to look for them.

Amy Lunday (amylunday@comcast.net) is a senior content specialist in the Office of Communications at Johns Hopkins University.

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