Hopeful April Showers

Before they take batting practice, before the turnstiles are rolled out onto Eutaw Street, before they even make the popcorn in the press box, there’s activity all over this place.  Three hours before the first pitch between the New York Yankees and Orioles sits an absolute treasure trove of hope. A handful of hometown heroes stretch to Nelly songs on a day that feels (at least weather-wise) more suited for an ALCS game.

Baseball is more than just a four hour slow dance. Its modern cathedral, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, celebrates its 20th season this year as the home of the Orioles.  Baltimore broke the seal of a new season with an emphatic series sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the first three games of 2012. Fans jumped to conclusions on your favorite social network of choice proclaiming 162-0 a reality and thinking that this year, by gosh, was the Orioles year.

Reality bites back in a very cruel fashion. The Yankees took the first two games of this April series against the O’s. New York benefited from Baltimore’s lack of producing any runs with Orioles in scoring position in the opener on Monday. On Tuesday night, Baltimore just couldn’t scratch across the winning run. The seemingly better team – the Yankees – won in extra innings. On Wednesday, the O’s get the pleasure of dealing with one of the better pitchers in the game.

The entire team fills the playing field for batting practice. Everyone is wearing a jacket. The time for short memory starts now. Even though it’s only April, you have to think the Orioles need to win at least one game against one of the better teams in baseball. Baltimore’s zombie-like state through the last 14 seasons of lethargic play on the field and questionable decision making off of it needs a jump start at some point.

During my senior year in high school, I purchased a 13-game mini-season ticket plan in section 13 down the right field line. The seats weren’t the best in the house. Anytime you need to check the television for the replay because you never saw the ball hop around the right field corner should give you a fairly good idea of the lay of the land. It didn’t really bother me that much as a teenager. I was enjoying a terrific baseball team in the middle of the 1990’s and every game at the ballpark seemed like an event.

That stopped a long time ago. The Florida Marlins have won two World Series since the Orioles could threaten for postseason contention. This city, once a dominant baseball town, can’t wait for the other opening day in September. You know, at the ballpark across the street. It’s the stadium that contends for a postseason championship, regularly sells out its stadium and doesn’t create outcry from even placid fans.

Batting practice ends. Fans start to roll in. There’s a line for the popcorn. Anticipation grows. This team still is above .500 before the first pitch is thrown on Wednesday night.

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