July 9, 2004, the Baltimore Orioles faced off against the Kansas City Royals at Camden Yards. A young seven year old was in attendance that day for his first baseball game. That seven year old was me, and that was my first baseball game ever. I had watched games on T.V. before, but I had never been to Camden Yards.
The only things I remember from the game were that I got my first shirsey (t-shirt jersey) that day and that there was fireworks after the game. A quick search on Baseball Reference revealed that the Orioles lost that game 7-0 to the Royals. Darrell May went nine innings for the Royals with only allowing five hits and the Orioles only used two pitchers in that game, surprisingly. None of that stuff mattered at the time for a young seven year old who just received a Rafael Palmeiro shirt and got to see his favorite player at the time in Javy Lopez play.
It’s safe to say the Orioles have come a long way from that July day in 2004. As I’m writing this, they have a six game lead in the American League East and are in the middle of a three game series against the division rival New York Yankees. If you said this at any point from 1998-2011, you would sound like a crazy person.
Don’t get me wrong, I love saying that my favorite team is in first place. It’s actually relieving after all of the things I’ve been through regarding this team. Along with the Orioles’ 60th Anniversary season, I like to call this my 10th Anniversary year as being a fan of the Orioles. Of course, I didn’t get to grow up watching the team win championships like my dad got to see, I had to learn to love a team when they are at their worst.
I was born in November of 1996, so even if I wanted to, I would not be able to remember the 1997 season. After that season, Baltimore baseball became a black pit of despair that saw the good times really end when Cal Ripken, Jr. hung it up in 2001. I didn’t even get to see any of the Ripken era. I had the era of all the players getting busted for HGH, being eliminated by the All-Star Break and having absolutely no star players. It exactly hasn’t been a smooth past with this team.
My favorite player during this time was Brian Roberts. He was the best player on the team for the longest time while they were in their down years, and it was fun to watch him hit 50 doubles a year. We also had guys like Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora who were awesome to watch, but the rest was pretty bad.
In August of 2010, the Orioles hired Buck Showalter to become the manager. For many fans, this was amazing news to hear. Finally having the type of leader Showalter is leading this team, many believed the good times were soon coming, and they came not even two years later.
2012 became that dream year for many Orioles fans, including myself. Everything seemed to go their way and all of the pieces fell in line to give this team their first playoff berth in 15 years, and the first one I would have experienced. After an amazing season filled with the highest highs and a couple of lows, the Orioles earned that playoff berth. They were to play in the first American League Wild Card game ever against the past AL Champion, Texas Rangers. That day became one of my favorite as an Orioles fan.
That moment when Nate McLouth caught the David Murphy fly ball and Matt Wieters ran to hug Jim Johnson, I had finally seen my favorite team do the impossible for most of my life: win a playoff game. I was filled with so many emotions, mostly happy, just because I had waited my whole life as an O’s fan to see this moment.
Unfortunately for that team, their season was cut short in the ALDS against the New York Yankees. The thing that didn’t damper my spirits was the promise of an offseason not dreading watching a team finish in last place the next season; I had something to look forward to.
The next year didn’t bring as much excitement as the playoff run of 2012, and we won’t discuss what happened at the end of the season. This season has delivered what both of those last two seasons combined haven’t delivered though: a first place ball club into August.
I look back on that day in 2004 and can finally say with comfort, I’m glad where the Orioles are as a franchise. They have become something consistently good and enjoyable for all fans of all ages. They give the old fans memories of the teams they watched when they grew up and the young fans the confidence that winning baseball is back in Baltimore and will be around for a while. It’s finally a case of us getting bad over losses because we knew the O’s could have won the game, not because we don’t know when they will win again.