Even though the whole team enjoyed throwing it during warmups, the football belonged to left-hander Nick Vespi. It was a good one, too, old and faded yet reliable, the leather still sticky despite all the use it got at Triple-A Norfolk.
But when Vespi received a call-up to the Orioles on Tuesday, the football followed him to Baltimore. Now it’s thrown around at Camden Yards instead of Harbor Park, and Vespi guessed Tides right-hander Grayson Rodriguez would buy another football for the pitchers to warm up with.
The problem: That football would likely follow Rodriguez, the game’s top pitching prospect, to Baltimore at some point this summer, too. And when that happened, the Tides would be without a ball again, starting the cycle all over. So Ryan Blake, an Orioles fan who runs the Twitter account @OriolesFanProbz, found a solution.
He bought the Norfolk team their own football. That way, no matter who receives a promotion, there will always be a football for the Tides.
“I know pitchers especially sometimes like to work on their arm strength by throwing a football around the outfield,” Blake said. “Minor leaguers get moved around often and if the players are the ones providing the footballs, eventually they’ll move on like Vespi did and take the ball with them.
“I figured it would be nice to give them a football that can stay in the clubhouse through transactions. Plus, I like to think I’m a solid voice for Orioles Twitter, so I thought it would be nice coming from me on behalf of all the fans who are excited about the future of the team.”
Blake added a personalized note to the football itself, writing that it was sent “with love from @OriolesFanProbz and all of O’s Twitter.” Inside the box — which he shipped Thursday — Blake added another note.
“Heard Vespi took the team football with him to the bigs,” Blake wrote. “Hopefully this one you guys can hang onto as the roster keeps changing. On behalf of Orioles Twitter, we’re rooting for all of you. Keep balling. See you at The Yard!”
Initially, when Rodriguez figured he’d be the one to buy the new football, he tweeted at the Ravens asking for a “small favor.” The favor wound up coming from Blake in the form of a new football in the mail and a vote of confidence on behalf of Orioles Twitter.