Everybody that is a sports fan seems to have that one person that got them into it from the beginning. For me, it is the opposite. My dad would always tell me about how I got him back into sports after becoming disconnected from them for a period of time after he and my mom left Maryland.
However, everything changed on July 9, 2004. As a surprise present, my dad took us all to the Orioles game against the Kansas City Royals that day. The Orioles lost 7-0, but I did not even care — I was seven years old. It was the perfect quintessential first game for any kid; getting to just go, eating all the ballpark food, and getting your first t-shirt. As for that first shirt, mine happened to be a Rafael Palmeiro shirsey and being that I was seven, I had no idea who Palmeiro even was. Looking back now, it was really funny.
It became almost like a tradition to go to at least one game a month despite the performance on the field because hey, I was a kid and the games were fun. When 2008 rolled along, the games we went to in a year shot up immensely. Completely as a shock to me, my dad got us season tickets; the Sunday 13 game plan. Now, if you know anything about the Orioles and their performance in the late 2000’s, you will know that they virtually never won on Sundays. Like, it became very eery how little they won on Sundays. Despite this, we still went to every game we had tickets to and would get tickets for giveaways that we weren’t slated to go to with our plan.
We turned in our season tickets following the 2010 season but that did not limit our appearances at the stadium. However, once 2012 rolled around, you would think we purchased them again with how often we would go. The Orioles’ surprise playoff run and subsequent appearance that season surprised many, including me and him. At a certain point in September of that year, he promised me that if the Orioles host a playoff game, we would find a way to go.
Low and behold, we made the playoffs and we went to a game. Rally towel in hand, we were both full of jubilation for the chance to finally see our favorite team in the postseason for the first time together. Thanks to my good friend Avi Miller for the ticket hookup, we were in the upper deck but you could have put us on top of the Warehouse and we would have still been appreciative. We went to Game 1 of the 2012 ALDS and despite the Orioles losing that game and eventually the series, it still allowed for truly an amazing bonding moment between me and him.
Fast forward to the next season, while I still attended a good amount of games, the amount that me and my dad would go to started to go down due to his health and him wanting me to go with my friends and make memories with them. He still always offered to drive us and pick us up and once 2014 rolled along, I was licensed to drive and then that burdened was put upon me.
We still made it out to several games each year from 2014-2017 but it became less and less simply because of outside factors we had no control over and that we just enjoyed our time watching them together at home on television just as much. The last game me and my dad went to was August 5, 2017; Tim Beckham hit the 10,000th home run in Orioles franchise history and they beat the Tigers 5-2.
Looking back on every single sporting event we went to, the last ones for each team that we liked was a win. The last Orioles game we went to together, mentioned above, they won, the last Ravens game we went to; the Ravens won, and the last Capitals game we went to; the Caps won.
Even if we didn’t go together or I went with friends or even by myself, we always texted back and forth about what was going on in the game. This past Saturday was the first time I was not able to do that.
My father passed away unexpectedly on May 6th and it took everything in my power to not text his number about what was happening in the game. Every time a home run was hit, I was expecting a text featuring the player who hit it followed by an exclamation point. However, that did not come following the Dwight Smith, Jr. home run against the Angels.
I think it will be a while before I get used to not receiving those messages from him anymore or having the opportunity to talk about the game that night or the next day after we both woke up.
Sports gave us so many amazing father-son moments in our time together. One that will forever stick out to me was this past June following the Caps winning the Stanley Cup. After the clock hit all zeroes, I started walking back to the Metro and immediately called my dad; waking him up to say “they did it!” and despite him being half asleep, he was still super happy and telling me to make it home safely. That next Father’s Day, I got him the championship t-shirt and we continued to talk about it that entire summer.
Saying goodbye to any loved one is one of the hardest things any of us will ever have to do. Saying goodbye to a parent is even harder, especially when it was so sudden. I will always cherish the memories I had with my dad whether it was related to sports or not but I will always step foot into Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, and Capital One Arena and think to myself that he is watching the game with me and one day we will get to both talk about them again.