This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.
Baseball has always been a part of my family life. I can’t remember a time when summer evenings didn’t include the ballgame on the radio or television, or when a holiday passed that my uncle didn’t offer his opinions on how to fix the rotation while my grandfather complained about a slugger who strikes out too much.
For most of my life, the Baltimore Orioles have been a bad baseball team. They’ve had their moments, but I was born after their glory years. And for my entire adult life until four years ago, the Orioles weren’t just bad, they were a laughing stock. But it was during those years that they became an even bigger part of my familial relationships as I grew into adulthood and my grandparents, especially my grandmother, advanced in age and became less a part of the everyday world.
If you have spent time with someone who doesn’t often leave the house, you understand how difficult it can be to come up with new and fresh things to talk about. My grandmother spent many of her last years confined to her home, limiting her ability to speak about things that she didn’t see on TV or hear about from someone else. But thanks to baseball, we always had plenty to say during our visits. She watched every game from her living room and had strong opinions on every player.
She and my grandfather were two very different types of fans. She was the ultimate pessimist. The Orioles were never good enough, they’d never going to return to their former glory with these players or this manager. It was an extension of her personality at large, where she was often times harsh but passionate for those people and things that she cared about. But she never gave up on them, even if she expected them to lose. If the game was close in the ninth inning, she couldn’t take it. She’d take refuge on the patio, smoking a cigarette and waiting for me to come out and tell her who won. If the answer was the Orioles, she’d smile but comment on how it’s just like them to almost throw it away.
My grandfather, on the other hand, has always been a baseball optimist. Even in the darkest years, as the O’s losing streak stretched across a decade, he always believed they could win. Every year during Spring Training, as reports flooded in that players were in the best shape of their lives, my grandfather believed them all. “They’ve got the hitters, the pitching might come around,” he’d say, as my grandmother and I disagreed and told him he was crazy. He and I had a conversation before the 2012 season in which he repeated the same optimism he’d shown every year prior, and I laughed at how misguided he was. We made a bet on their record, with him claiming they’d be over .500 and me stating that they didn’t have a chance.
Well, if you recall the 2012 season, the Orioles won 93 games, captured the Wild Card, and made it to game five of the ALDS before their season came to an end. I heard a lot about my pessimism that year, let me tell you. I still hear about it sometimes, almost four years later.
As a fan myself, I have to admit that I’m more like my grandmother. Even now, with the Orioles having four straight non-losing seasons and two playoff appearances since 2012, my natural instinct is to think the worst. The starting pitcher will always implode, the offense will never get a hit in the clutch, the Orioles of 2012-15 were a fluke.
I wish I didn’t have that attitude. Outwardly, I have tried to take on the more optimistic view that has always been modeled by my Granddad. Over the last few years I have argued on Twitter and my internet home of CamdenChat.com about how the Orioles are better than people think. When the game is on the line late I profess my faith in my team despite a sinking feeling in my stomach. I am trying to fake it until I make it, basically, but I don’t think I’ll ever be fully successful.
We lost my grandmother to cancer in 2008, so I was never able to share the winning Orioles with her as an adult. As the O’s participated in the 2012 playoffs, I thought about her a lot, wondering if she would have changed her pessimistic ways after watching the magical 2012 team. Probably not. We are who we are, after all. I imagine that she would have seen Jim Johnson’s implosion coming from a mile away (or at least claimed she did). She wouldn’t have witnessed Brian Matusz giving up a walk-off home run to Raul Ibanez in game three of the ALDS (she would have been on the porch, unable to take it) but she never would have forgiven Matusz for as long as he was in an Orioles uniform. But she still would have been ecstatic for our guys even as she cursed them, and I’m sad I didn’t get to experience that with her.
I have been able to spend the last four seasons of good Orioles baseball with my grandfather, and for that I’m grateful. Finally, he has seen a return on his optimism. The ultimate payoff would be a World Series win (though he, unlike me, has at least gotten to see three of those for the Orioles in his life), and maybe he’ll soon be rewarded for his faith in his team.
I wouldn’t count on it, though. Have you seen the starting rotation?
Stacey Folkemer has been writing for Camden Chat, SB Nation’s Baltimore Orioles blog, since 2008. You can find her there or follow her @StaceyMFolk. She lives in Maryland with her husband, who is also a sports writer. In the winter she dreams of baseball. In the summer she watches it from section 334 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.